2017.05.13

“Indian Art broadened my seeing, loosened the formal tightness I had learned in England schools. Its bigness and stark reality baffled my white man’s understanding. I was as Canadian-born as the Indian but behind me were old world heredity and ancestry well as Canadian environment. The new west called me, but my old world heredity, the flavour of my upbringing, pulled me back. I have been schooled to see outsides only, not struggle to pierce… I learned a lot from the Indians, but who except Canada herself could help me comprehend her great woods and spaces?”

I’m getting to the end of my list of Emily Carr books to read. Today I finished reading the catalogue from the 2006 retrospective. Most of what I’ve read so far has been biography or Emily’s own words, whether true or not. I think it was right to read the criticism second because I’m finding answers to the questions that came up while I read the primary sources. Next I tackle Gerta Moray’s massive PhD thesis on Emily Carr and her cultural appropriation. It’s more timely than ever as Canada barrels towards the celebration of 150 years of confederation, as we wonder if anything has changed.

“What I am looking for I must work out for myself. It is between God and me. Laziness made me desire to look at the pictures of the others, to try and pick up short-cut recipes that others have used…instead of going straight to the thing itself.”

The more I read about her, and the more I look at her pictures, the more I love how Emily Carr painted the land and the sky, not the totem poles. She found herself very late in life. My favourite paintings are from the 1930s when she was in her 60s. It makes me feel good about the future, that it’s never too late for great things to happen, and I need more of that hope in my life.