In autumn, the rural road along Nova Scotia's Highway 2 is lined with scenes of quaint farm houses, river views, and blueberry fields as red as hot coals.
My sister and I made our way along this road one chilly October day, excited to view the newest work of local artist Joy Laking at her Fall Exhibition.
Joy Laking has been capturing the heart and soul of Nova Scotia in her paintings for over forty years. A visit to her gallery near Bass River leaves one feeling warm, welcomed, and inspired.
Joy's paintings of the simple beauty that make up the landscape and culture of Nova Scotia are pure joy to view in person. I love to purchase note cards from her gallery to send to friends near and far. A few of my favorites are below.
On this day, when I visited her Fall Open House Exhibition, I had the pleasure of viewing a painting she created on layers of sheer fabric. The sheerness of the fabric mimicked fog, and left a lasting impression that I still can't shake weeks later.
After a lovely, picturesque drive, viewing Joy's newest work, and having the opportunity to chat with her about her paintings and the villages she visits, I couldn't imagine that our next stop would be the icing on the cake.
On the way to Joy's gallery, we had passed a quaint, albeit plain looking, farm house. A large pink sign shaped like a pig at the end of the driveway advertised Farm Gate, a small independent farm selling local pork. Under the pig sign, a smaller sign advertised an art gallery.
I'm not sure if it was the bitter chill in the air, or the darkening grey skies overhead, but this gallery really didn't seem terribly welcoming. I couldn't have been more wrong!
Upon entering a side door leading into a porch, in what I am guessing is a century old home, the smell of fresh baked bread felt like the warmest of welcoming hugs. We were greeted by a petite older lady whose smile was as warm as the bread that she had just finished baking.
Gallery shelves were lined with an eclectic mix of paintings, bottles of pickled eggs and cucumbers, brightly colored jams and jellies, and fresh free-run eggs. A sign on the wall behind the small counter advertised meat prices, and a smaller sign offered a 25-cent return on 250ml mason jars.
While there were many matted prints available, I decided on purchasing three note cards. The most endearing one was a painting of hand written letters. Mrs. Meredith, the petite lady who welcomed us, and baker of the most delicious brown bread I've ever tasted, was happy to tell me that these were her own letters to pen pals, painted by her grandson Andrew.
The house in the next painting is Andrew's Aunt's home.The very best part of visiting a local gallery is being able to connect with the work, and learn what has been the artist's inspiration.
It is moments like these that I am most proud not only of being a Nova Scotian, but of my rural roots. The character of this gallery and its mix of art, baking, preserves, eggs and meat, and the warmth of people like Mrs. Meredith is pure and authentic. It is what is at the heart of Nova Scotia.
On the drive home I learned from my sister that Andrew Meredith, whose work we just admired, was my brother-in-law's elementary school student, and that he had been inspired by and learned painting tips from Joy Laking. I loved learning this from my sister, and realizing that in Nova Scotia we are all ultimately connected, silently intertwined like roots of a century old tree.
You can view more of Joy Laking's work on her website. Andrew Meredith also has a site featuring his work.
To arrive at Joy's gallery from Amherst or Halifax, take Exit 10 off Hwy. 104. At the ramp turn towards Great Village. Turn right onto Hwy. 2 at the intersection in front of the West End General Store in Great Village. The gallery is in Portaupique on Hwy. 2 (10 km west of Great Village and 5 km east of Bass River). Watch for Andrew's gallery and Farm Gate on the right side of the road when en route (7693 Highway 2).