Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A character in her own right and book #46: Emily Carr

It's always interesting moving, particularly when it's moving to a new country! There's always so much to explore - new towns, cities, and in Canada of course, there is the great outdoors. But I'm a people person, when I don't have my nose in a book that is, so it's the characters of any new town or city that really intrigue me - particularly those who have shaped the city itself.

Here in Victoria, on Vancouver Island, one such character is Emily Carr. I first came across her in the form of a statue. She's sitting outside the Fairmont Empress Hotel, complete with a pet monkey on her shoulder. My next encounter with her was inside the Royal BC Museum, where an exhibition depicting her artwork is currently on display. Yet I still had absolutely no idea who she was, and why she was such an icon to this Canadian province. 

Fortunately, the answers were in Emily Carr: The Incredible Life and Adventures of a West Coast Artist, by Cat Klerks. A short, 100-page, biography of this remarkable, yet rather eccentric woman, who finally found fame at 70-years-old. 

One of six children, Emily travelled to London in pursuit of her artistic dreams, spent time in Paris, Vancouver and San Francisco, before returning to Vancouver Island to sketch indigenous totem poles. She had few friends, a sister she was close to, established a boarding house called "The House of Allsorts" and eventually turned to writing selections of short stories, most of which were published posthumously.

This little book had everything I wanted to know about Emily. I've since visited Emily Carr House, now a heritage site in James Bay, and still on my to do list is the art gallery, named in her honour. A lonesome individual, she seemed to spend her time searching for solace in painting and writing, yet has left a legacy and in doing so become a character in her own right.

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