Folk artist Maud Lewis has become something of a celebrity in Mennonite circles in the last month. One of her paintings was discovered unexpectedly in a Mennonite Central Committee thrift store in New Hamburg Ontario and is now up for auction. Bids are already over the $100,000 mark.
My friend Esther introduced me to Maud Lewis and her colourful, lively paintings many years ago. I came to love Maud’s work and was excited to see her home when I visited the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. Maud’s entire house has been carefully preserved in the gallery.
When I was a high school teacher Maud was one of four Canadian artists whose life story and work I used in a grade eleven English unit I created called What is Art? I remember students writing poetry about Maud and submitting it on the decorated seats of old wooden chairs or on painted cookie sheets. Maud painted almost every surface in the small house she shared with her husband Everett including kitchen utensils and furniture.
You can see that process come to life in a new movie called Maudie which focuses on the relationship between folk artist Maud Lewis and her husband Everett. I own a well- read copy of a Maud Lewis biography by Lance Woolaver and think the relationship between Maud and her husband played by Ethan Hawke has been romanticized for the movie. In a CBC interview screenwriter Sherry White admits as much. Despite taking this licence the film gives us a memorable insight into the life of a Canadian artist many people may not even know.
My husband Dave was sure as we watched Maudie that some of the scenes from the movie must have been filmed in Trinity Newfoundland a place we visited last September. Sure enough a check of film locations proved he was right! But then he almost always is. Dave also thinks actress Sally Hawkins does an Oscar worthy job of playing Maud a woman of humour and determination whose body becomes more and more twisted by crippling arthritis as the film goes on. If you want to see if he is right about that you will have to go and see the film.