Changing the way we think about art, three North Shore artists are inspired by local experiences, culture, and the land around them

The Painter

Path to the Lake – Christene Sandeson

Christene Sandeson answers the phone after finishing her morning equine chores, as she calls them. The painter lives and operates her home studio on a plot of land 10 kilometres outside Truro. As of late, her property has inspired her work, especially a particular pond.
“As a child, we had a cottage and I became very good around water,” she says. “I’ve always enjoyed water for what it does; how it can be buoyant, and how it can reflect light, and how light refracts going into it. I’m always also interested in the bottom of the pond or the bottom of the ocean.”
Sandeson’s work bridges the surreal and the real in acrylic paints to offer dream-like images to the viewer. “What surprises me about all of this, throughout all of these years, is that initially I thought people responded more to realist works. Now I’m finding that people are really responding to work that are less real, because I think it gives them more room to insert their own imagination.”
While she says she doesn’t paint for an audience, she knows she has to hook the viewer and make their eye move throughout her piece. “I’m 67. If the art is going to survive beyond me, it has to speak to a wider thought and a wider group of people who might have different kinds of thoughts.”
She sees her move toward surrealistic images as a logical progression.
Years ago, she says, her friend Regina Cooper analyzed it this way: “When you’re first learning, you’re concerned with how do you do it. What are the different mediums and there’s all this learning about the how. As you progress, maybe you narrow your focus a bit. You think what is my main subject matter, what will I create? Then as you get older, I think you start thinking why am I doing this? You have to answer all those questions. I think the how, what, why takes you through different stages of understanding.”
Find her work at christenesandesonart.ca.

The Sculptor

Thoughts and Prayers 2018 – Brandt Eisner

COVID-19 has both slowed and ignited the professional life of Brandt Eisner. In early spring he saw the shows he had booked for 2020 cancelled as the virus stamped a question mark on the future.
“I was so devastated,” he says, “and then boom, boom, boom, the September shows just completely showed up out of nowhere. That’s a nice little reminder that the end of the world isn’t always the end of the world.”
In addition to participating in and planning a number of group shows this fall, Eisner recently became the curator at the Ice House Gallery within the Grace Jollymore Joyce Arts Centre in Tatamagouche.
“I think it’ll be great for the community to have such a burst of new things that they maybe haven’t seen before and discovering new artists that they don’t know are here in Nova Scotia,” he says.
Eisner was drawn to sculpture as a child. He started with flower arranging, encouraged by his grandmother while growing up in Chester Basin. “Somebody gave me these old calendars from the U.S. of florists who won these competitions,” he says. “It was like nothing I’ve ever seen. It basically was sculpture using a lot of found objects. It blew my mind.”
As a young queer kid growing up in a small community, Eisner always felt like an outsider.
“A lot of my work talks about the subtleties of how things impact you when you’re a kid. You have to be aware of things that nobody else has to be aware of. Even to this day, I’m very aware of how long walk and you know, how I sit and there are all these small things drilled into you at a young age. This is how a boy acts, this is how girl acts.”
In September, he displayed Fagus Polyporaceae at Arts Place’s outdoor exhibit space in Annapolis Royal. The wavy hot pink fungus represents gay men and boys growing up in rural areas who feel the need to hide who they are for acceptance and safety, but also those who are unapologetically proud and work to educate their communities.
See Eisner’s latest work in a group show at Ice House Gallery until Oct. 7. Find his work and other up-coming shows on Facebook by searching Brandt Eisner Artist.

The Rug Hooker

Holding On – Laura Kenney

Judy became a fixture in Laura Kenney’s rugs about seven years ago. She says the tall red-headed woman “wears a black dress because it’s slimming, and so she can be ready for funeral at a moment’s notice. She’s fun and she’s dark at the same time.”
Born in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, she grew up in a military family and lived all over the world, but summers spent in Nova Scotia during her childhood. When her husband was accepted to Dalhousie more than 20 years ago, the couple made the decision to call the province home. Today they live in Truro.
There’s a definite political note to Kenney’s work, though she says she tries not to preach. In her recent work, Judy is physically pushing down on the curve to lower COVID-19 numbers and in another she pulls the Earth along in a little red wagon, destined for a cooler place. The rugs are sad and humorous at the same time. Judy knows the problems are huge, but she’s going to give it her best shot.
“I’m very unaware of this [political side] coming out and that’s the folk artist in me. It’s just blah, it’s just coming out. I have a thought, I sketch it out, I make the rug and go to the next one. I almost think if you overthink it, you’re gonna scare it off.”
Originally, says Kenney, women would draw their own patterns on feedbags with charred wood and hook their art with strips of old clothing. Later when mass-produced patterns became common, everyone hooked the same standards, like the Bluenose or floral themes.
“A really tragic thing happened,” she says. “With the pattern, everything looks the same and it was more about technique. I can look at a piece and appreciate it, but if I’m not feeling anything from it, I feel like it didn’t do it for me. Hooking lost a bit there because I think a lot of women lost their voice.”
See Kenney’s latest rugs in a group show at Ice House Gallery until Oct. 7. See more of her work at laurakenneyrugs.ca.