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Anderson reclaims Newfoundland narratives, wives’ tales with Missed Made

Local artist Robyn Anderson reclaims Newfoundland narratives, wives’ tales with new exhibition Missed Made, on display at Arts and Culture Centre.
Local artist Robyn Anderson reclaims Newfoundland narratives, wives’ tales with new exhibition Missed Made, on display at Arts and Culture Centre.

Robyn Anderson is reclaiming Newfoundland wives’ tales and painting them bone char black.       

Her exhibition Missed Made is a play-on-words referencing the Newfoundland folklore, wives’ tales and narratives that Anderson said were absent from her upbringing.  

Yet Anderson is from here, and lived on the West Coast until moving away to pursue a master’s degree in Saskatchewan. She said the absence of certain aspects of Newfoundland culture in her childhood stems from growing up in the 90’s – a time when progression seemed to be on everyone’s mind, and the culture kids were consuming came largely through American or mainland Canadian television programs, movies, and the like.

She said her parents were also weary of feeding her the unlikely narratives of wives’ tales – but she said, like the old tale wizening kids not to walk under a ladder for fear of attracting bad luck – sometimes advice hidden in the tale is genuinely useful.

“They were like a pre-health and safety prevention course,” she said.

Anderson said she didn’t realize how instrumental Newfoundland culture could have been in her life until she moved away to Saskatchewan, and developed a perception of the differences between Newfoundland and away.

In Missed Made, Anderson uses a natural pigment she created herself while in Saskatchewan to coat duplicate copies she made of various objects.

The pigment was extracted from bones, which she gathered from the wild. She explains it’s a bone char black colour, and extracting it involves a process of breaking down and sifting the bones. She mulled the bones until they became microscopic, let them dry and coated them with bees’ wax to create the pigment.

Anderson sifted through collections of old wives tales available at the MUN Folklore Association, and extracted key objects from the narratives. She created copies of these objects through a material made from algae, and then coated them with the dark, bone char black pigment.

She calls them “dark versions” of objects common to or representing a Newfoundland folktale.

This idea of the “dark version” of an object is rooted in a concept Anderson discovered while away at grad school. She said she became interested in Carl Jung’s idea of the “black sun”, briefly defined as accepting negative events or objects in a person’s life as a necessary part of them, and claiming that these negative events are therefore inherently positive, or character building.

Anderson said she became interested in recent writing about Jung’s theory, and although she made work directly inspired from it, the threads of Jung’s influence are still hanging around, and present throughout Missed Made.

But Anderson said the main focus of the work for her was digesting of how prevalent, or not prevalent various wives’ tales were in her development as a person.

One of Anderson’s favourite tales she came across involved lamps.

“It entailed that you can’t have two lamps alight in the same room, because they’ll start to compete with each other, and something that human can’t be good,” she said.

Anderson was given a lamp from her friend to recreate in reference to the tale, and her dark version of it became a part of the exhibition.

Anderson thanks the Newfoundland Arts Council for providing funding for Missed Made. Funding she said she spent largely on algae-safe and beeswax, and other materials for sculpting.

Missed Made is on display at the Arts and Culture Centre until Sept. 22.

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