Hang­ing Fred and a Few Oth­ers, in Rich­mond

Stanstead Journal - - FORUM - Spe­cial col­lab­o­ra­tion Rich­mond County His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety

Over the last few years, the Rich­mond County His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety has ini­ti­ated a num­ber of fundrais­ing events which have also served to con­trib­ute to both cul­tural aware­ness and cul­tural ex­pres­sion. The so­ci­ety, in the past 3 years, mounted a mem­o­rable multi-me­dia pre­sen­ta­tion on the life and art of Fred­er­ick Simp­son Coburn, pre­served lo­cal his­tory in a Time Vault and com­mis­sioned a sculp­ture evoca­tive of the area’s his­tory, and in­volved much of the en­tire com­mu­nity in a vis­ual arts project that cul­mi­nated in the sale of over 100 small works of art, most of which were cre­ated lo­cally.

Per­haps no one should be sur­prised that the So­ci­ety’s fundraiser this year is a cel­e­bra­tion and a pro­mo­tion of the arts. This year it is a joint project with the Cen­tre d’Art de Rich­mond, like the RCHS, a lo­cal or­gan­isme à but non-lu­cratif, al­though one which op­er­ates a mu­sic school and an­nu­ally presents as many as three dozen shows in its con­cert hall. It also houses a small art gallery and rents stu­dio space to mu­si­cians and vis­ual artists, as well as to com­mu­nity groups.

“The event we’re co-host­ing this year,” said RCHS pres­i­dent Bev­erly Taber Smith, “is an Art Gala which will be held in Rich­mond on Sun­day, Septem­ber 28. It’s a unique event be­cause it brings to­gether both lit­er­a­ture and art. We’ll be hold­ing a re­cep­tion, from 5:00 to 7:00 at which we’ll have a book sign­ing and an art auc­tion.”

If the event is unique, its ori­gins are sim­i­larly un­usual and can be traced back to the RCHS pro­duc­tion of Café & Coburn. Nick Fonda did much of the re­search for the pre­sen­ta­tion and all of the writ­ing. The new ma­te­rial he dis­cov­ered on the Eastern Town­ships’ most fa­mous painter even­tu­ally led him to write his third book, a work of non-fic­tion en­ti­tled Hang­ing Fred and a Few

Oth­ers, pub­lished by Baraka Books of Mon­treal. The book’s sub­ti­tle, Pain­ters of the Eastern

Town­ships, reveals that the shock of the first word in the ti­tle is re­ally a dou­ble-en­ten­dre. The hang­ing is of paint­ings—those of Fred Coburn for the lucky (and wealthy) few— but also those of other

artists, and in this in­for­ma­tion-rich book, Fonda in­tro­duces the reader to 13 other pain­ters who call (or called) the Town­ships home. Of the 13, two were ap­prox­i­mate con­tem­po­raries of Coburn and 10 are still ac­tive.

Hang­ing Fred and a Few Oth­ers is a cu­ri­ous but very suc­cess­ful jux­ta­po­si­tion of the past and the present, the old and the new, the fa­mous and less fa­mous, the representational and the ab­stract. At one mo­ment Fonda has the reader ex­plor­ing the re­la­tion­ship be­tween paint­ing and re­li­gion (who even knew the two are linked!), and on the next chapter he is pass­ing on gos­sip which is al­most as juicy now as it was 80 years ago. The book’s 26 chap­ters al­ter­nate back and forth be­tween its main sub­ject and the other 13 pain­ters, all wo­ven to­gether not only by the most un­ex­pected of com­par­isons and con­trasts but also by Fonda’s seam­less prose.

Fonda’s treat­ment of Coburn is at once re­spect­ful (he fre­quently quotes from or refers to Eve­lyn Lloyd Coburn’s self­pub­lished Be­yond the Land­scape) and rev­e­la­tory. His bi­og­ra­phy of Coburn fo­cuses largely on the sixth decade of the artist’s life, the years fol­low­ing his wife’s death. Fonda dis­pels the myth that Coburn was ro­man­ti­cally in­volved with his favourite model, the dramatic dancer Car­lotta, and then reveals that the artist was emo­tion­ally in­volved with a com­pletely other at­trac­tive young woman. As if to dis­pel any pos­si­bil­ity that this story might be fic­tion, the book con­tains 16 pages of pho­to­graphs, ei­ther of Coburn or taken by Coburn, which sub­stan­ti­ate the nar­ra­tive that Fonda un­furls. The spe­cial hard­cover edi­tion, of which a limited run of only 150 copies are be­ing printed, is be­ing pre-sold and will in­clude an ad­di­tional colour sup­ple­ment of 16 colour plates of paint­ings by “Fred and a few oth­ers,” the artists fea­tured in the book.

Fred­er­ick Coburn (1871-1960) was once Canada’s best-known painter. The “few oth­ers” re­ferred to in the ti­tle are: Madeleine Audette, Pauline Boudreau, Aaron Ed­son, Min­nie Gill, France Jodoin, Madeleine Lemire, Stu­art Main, Mary Martin, David Nort­cliffe, Denis Palmer, Kevin Son­mor, Stephan Starenkyj, and the late Gor­don Pear­son. All, to a greater or lesser ex­tent, have cre­ated works of art that have drawn crit­i­cal and pop­u­lar ac­claim. Many were, or are, elected mem­bers of dif­fer­ent art so­ci­eties. Thanks to the gen­eros­ity of the con­tem­po­rary artists fea­tured in the book, the paint­ings which ap­pear in the spe­cial edi­tion of “Hang­ing Fred and a Few Oth­ers” will be put up for sale by auc­tion to raise funds for the Rich­mond County His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety and the Cen­tre d’Art de Rich­mond. As many as eleven lucky bene­fac­tors and art lovers will leave the Gala, the proud own­ers of both a qual­ity paint­ing by a rec­og­nized Eastern Town­ships painter and a very in­ter­est­ing book about artists of the Eastern Town­ships.

The launch will be part of the Art Gala at the Cen­tre SteFamille, 155 Craig St in Rich­mond on Sun­day, Sept 28, 2014 from 5 p.m. un­til 7 p.m. A wine and hors d’oeu­vres re­cep­tion will fea­ture mu­sic by Francine Beaubien. There are two ways that pa­trons, friends and sup­port­ers of the two not-for-profit or­ga­ni­za­tions can take part. One is by pre-or­der­ing a lim­it­ededi­tion, hard­cover copy of “Hang­ing Fred and a Few Oth­ers” be­fore Septem­ber 21 (or while copies last) at a cost of $60 and re­ceive free ad­mis­sion for two to the Art Gala and Auc­tion. The other is to at­tend the Gala, at a cost of $30 per per­son. To or­der

Hang­ing Fred and a Few Oth­ers , or to at­tend the Gala, con­tact Le Cen­tre d’Art de Rich­mond, ei­ther by phone at 819-826-2488 or by email at cen­tredart­derich­mond.ca or by con­tact­ing Si­mon Langeveld at 819-826-1923. This is an ex­cep­tional op­por­tu­nity to cel­e­brate Town­ships artists and sup­port lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions.

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