Visually Speaking: Carolyn Landry

Anna Horsnell

The paper is possible because of a tree nurtured from a seed by sunlight and soil. The colour originated from natural sources as well, plant or mineral, though perhaps chemically altered. The brush is wood, natural hair, or synthetic bristles held together by a metal sleeve. The artist picks up the brush to place the paint on the paper. She is profoundly aware.

Carolyn Landry is quite simply a person very much in tune with the natural world. She does not consider herself creative, even feeling detached from the process. She paints, “to see things differently, to see the truth, to see things as they really are.” In fact, her first watercolour painting came in response to experiencing the devastation of a clear-cut forest in Bear River when she asked herself, “What is my part in this?” Her watercolour paintings are gentle explorations of what she learns by seeing things clearly and letting go. She approaches the work with an open mind to try different things, to work out her thoughts, to perhaps play with colour and shape and line. There are suggestions of tradition amidst wonderfully abstract freedom.

Perhaps you’ve attended one of Landry’s workshops to make a pair of soft leather moccasins or weave a beautiful basket. Maybe you were present when she performed a traditional Mi’kmaw smudge ceremony at Kentville’s Truth and Reconciliation Ceremony last September, or any number of other local events. Possibly you saw her online video on how to construct a traditional hand drum. As a member of the Annapolis Valley First Nation, she gently reaches out to share her knowledge and bridge the gap of cultural understanding.

Landry was born in Berwick during a snowstorm, but grew up in Kingston. She left school early to spend five years living on the land, learning from her father how to fish and trap, how to walk in the forest and leave no trace of your passing, how to respect animals. “I remember the lessons very clearly,” she notes. The lessons continued, with her mother and elder family members teaching her about ceremony and traditions, and skills passed down through generations. She travelled, married, raised three children, and returned to school to eventually earn a master’s degree in sociology from Acadia University.

At the heart of it all Landry does live the seven sacred teachings of ancient Mi’kmaw tradition she learned from her family, notably her mother and grandmother. Providing guidance to end suffering and find peace, joy, and harmony in life, the seven teachings include love, respect, courage, truth, humility, wisdom, and honesty. Landry sees her art as simply an instrument toward understanding these teachings. “Everything takes me back to the land,” she explains, “We can only see if we experience.” She shies from any attachment and seeks only gratitude and expression.

Much is gained by slowing down, listening, and looking deeply to understand our world and each other. To learn more about Carolyn Landry’s art, or for information regarding any of her workshops and services through her business, Redfeather Native Art, email her directly at landrycarolyn@hotmail.com or call 1-902-300-9982.