In 2006 I came upon a story based on an ethnic community history, about a “band of Gypsies” who arrived in Peterborough, Ontario in 1909 causing quite a stir. Guided by Professor Keith Walden, from the history department of Trent University, I developed an academic reading course to facilitate my research and examine Romani history and culture. I referenced the photographic images of the visit in the Bailsille Collection at the Peterborough Centennial Museum and Archives, as well as the extensive news coverage. I talked to people about their memories of “Gypsies”, and consulted throughout with Ronald Lee, Romani scholar, activist and natural born Roma.
I developed a large-scale installation comprised of a series of paintings and supportive sculptural elements including reproduction of the news coverage in to one paper which the gallery visitor could read sitting in a period parlour.
The exhibition illustrates the story of the Romani visit to Peterborough in 1909 and examines different perspectives to the narrative. I was awarded funding by the Ontario Arts Council and short listed for the K.M. Hunter award for this body of work. The show was first exhibited at the Art Gallery of Peterborough, invited by former director, Illi Maria Tamplin, and then toured Ontario.
The Pride of Peterborough
The Pride of Peterborough is my rediscovery of John Smith who attempted to paddle his canoe, the “Pride of Peterborough”, from Peterborough, Ontario to Peterborough, England. The installation, created in 1992, depicts the grand adventure and sad end of Smith, in the canoe he built himself at the famous Peterborough Canoe Co. Smith got as far as Newfoundland, where he perished in the Gulf of the St. Laurence. The exhibit is based on the original 1934 news coverage, as well as Smith’s log, which was found floating in the St. Lawrence River in a tin can. “Pride of Peterborough” is in the collection of the Canadian Museum of History.
The Blind Goats
I started the Blind Goat series in my student days, initiated by a school competition in which we were asked to create signs for the college pub. The winner would get $50 and their sign would hang above the bar for all to admire for years to come. I did not win this contest. The first of many contests that I did not win. I was beat out by a wood burning of a goat standing on a mountain. The class was informed by the administration that we could not keep our paintings as they were college property and would be put in a storage locker on the off chance that some day the college would need to display an eclectic collection of goat paintings by arts administration students. I toyed with the idea of leading the class in a public protest against the administration to retrieve our rightful property!! (I was young then) Instead I asked a janitor to let me in to the storage locker where I retrieved my painting, put it in my orange VW bug and drove it home. It was never missed.
Beginning with “The Blind Goat”, I did a series of lively paintings over a number of years based on the Blind Goat theme. They were first shown at Artspace in Peterborough in 1988. Says Shelagh Young, Artistic director at the time,
Painter/illustrator, Brydon exhibits a poignantly comical series of paintings completed during the last five years. Her BLIND GOATS are oil on wood pub signs with deceptive innocence, astute observation, wisdom and pointed social commentary in each image.
The BLIND GOATS are blundering optimists in a “goatesque” world, paralleling her own faith in the intrinsic values of human nature. Although the goats are involved in activitiesrequiring sight, their dark glasses symbolize our inability to see what befalls us next.