Cape Breton is known internationally as an island of great natural beauty and a producer of unique culture, art and music. While these qualities are well appreciated by locals, islanders are aware that their shared history of labour, geographic isolation, economic strife and tight-knit communities has produced a character that is born of this island, and is unique to it. It is one artist’s expression of the region’s human character that is currently on exhibition at the Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design.
Character Reference is a collection of watercolour work currently on exhibit until Friday, June 21. Produced by New Waterford native Patsy MacAulay-MacKinnon, the vibrant watercolour is a perfectly-timed collection, as the hope and beauty of the pieces elicit in an observer the joyful qualities welcomed when transitioning from a harsh Cape Breton spring toward a hopefully bright and warm summer season. While MacKinnon is adept at working in many mediums, she chose to focus on watercolour for this particular project, which took about two years work before being publicly unveiled. The award-winning artist was approached by the Centre and chose a very appropriate work to exhibit in Cape Breton, as the pieces all feature local people, sometimes costumed and posed or else in their natural state. The expression of their individual essence, when viewed as a whole, expresses an undeniable, almost indefinable, character of the Island. MacKinnon sought to capture the essential character of each person, but as she progressed, found herself identifying with the subjects portrayed and thus the work actually expresses her own unique personality, a welcome yet unintentional outcome.
Patsy MacKinnon is a “born and bred Cape Breton girl” who has successfully moved on from her former employment as a Registered Nurse to become a nationally recognized artist and member of the Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolour. She has painted since childhood and continues to do so everyday, winning awards such as The National Donor Recognition Award for her mural “The Warmth of Sharing”, which is installed at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital. She also has been commissioned for numerous illustrative works for Cape Breton University Press and Nimbus Publishing, the largest English Language publisher east of Toronto. Her latest published work is illustrating a young reader’s book written by Helene Boudreau titled Evangeline. It is a tale important to the Acadian identity and MacKinnon will be attending, along with the author, a book signing this coming July 20th in Louisbourg. The artist also teaches watercolour classes in Cape Breton; those interested should visit her website for inquiries and more. MacKinnon’s work has national and international exposure, so do not pass over a chance to see and maybe purchase a work of art expressing the character of our island and its people: Patsy MacAuley MacKinnon’s Character Reference runs at the Centre for Craft and Design until Friday, June 21st.
The Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design is located at 322 Charlotte Street in Sydney. The Centre has been in existence in some form for decades, providing access and networking opportunities for local artists as well as offering instruction to aspiring artists through different classes and workshops. The current permanent space in Sydney offers multiple areas that can accommodate meetings, seminars, workshops, conferences or other gatherings, depending on an interested party’s needs. People interested in practicing art or craft should be aware of the workshops, campaigns and classes being offered by the Centre and its partners.