2019-07-24

How Maud Lewis inspired one Lunenburg County folk art collector

by Gayle Wilson

  • <p>Susan Robertson stands alongside the Bradford Naugler painting she bought at the Nova Scotia Folk Art Festival.</p>
  • <p>GAYLE WILSON PHOTOS</p><p>No minimalism here; the feature wall in Susan Robert&#8217;s home outside of Lunenburg.</p>
  • <p>GAYLE WILSON PHOTO</p><p>Adrienne Dean, the owner and artisan behind Knotty Lemon Designs who created this 3D art piece will be exhibiting at the festival as a new artist</p>

Susan Robertson doesn't remember much about the time she visited the home of one of Nova Scotia's most iconic folk artists, Maud Lewis, when she was ten years old.

Taking time out from summer camp at Sandy Cove, she had tagged along with a family friend who worked for the VON, and remembers only that Lewis was a small woman and her home was replete with art and unusual things.

"This was not a usual home," Robertson recalled in an interview recently with LighthouseNOW.

Now an avid collector who every year walks away with various treasures from the Nova Scotia Folk Art Festival, Robertson concedes the experience may have left its mark.

Sweeping her arm to take in the myriad of art pieces and collectibles that adorn her own home on Corkum's Island, Robertson grins and says, tongue-in-cheek, "It didn't influence me at all."

A writer and marketing consultant, Robertson moved from Toronto in 2013 to live full-time in the family vacation home on the island. She has attended the festival on and off for years, and consecutively for the past six.

A keen supporter of the event, Robertson and has bought "definitely more than 20" art pieces while there. She makes a point of purchasing a piece from a new artist every year, and regularly has a go at the auction.

A quick glace on her wall takes in a whimsical painting by Bradford Naugler and 3-D art by Adrienne Dean, the owner and artisan behind Knotty Lemon Designs who will exhibit at the festival as a new artist this year.

In the past, Robertson has volunteered at the festival on behalf of the Lunenburg Rotary Club, helping to cook hamburgers. She says fellow members would tease her because she often needed help getting her purchases into her car.

For the collector, seeing the art in the parking lot is often as pleasurable as viewing it in the War Memorial Arena, where the event is held.

"When you see it all together it looks cool, but once you see it out in the world, people walking out with a moose under their arm ... it's just like happiness walking out of the building. It's such a joyful day," she says.

Robertson notes that not everyone recognizes the depth and feeling behind folk art. "Some people think, 'Oh, folk art is simple, it's easy. It's not,'" she insists.

In Nova Scotia much of it hearkens to a traditional, sea-faring age, and the art is all about "story telling," she explains.

But its appeal lives on in modern times, with many people appreciating its simple lines as they gravitate toward more minimalist designs and decluttered lives.

Robertson points to the organization sensation, Marie Kondo, who advises that the determining factor of whether something stays in our home in the de cluttering process is whether it "sparks joy."

"To me, [folk art] just makes you light up when you see it...You can't help but smile," says Robertson.

Looking around Robertson's art-filled home, it's anything but minimalist. She's clearly collected a lot of joy for herself there. One might suspect it would have made Maud Lewis smile.

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