Opening Reception: Saturday, 10 June 2023 at 1:00 p.m.
This exhibition brings together the multifaceted creative endeavours of Helen Cavalier Quinn (1921-2015). Raised in Cleveland, Ohio and educated at the Cleveland Art Institute, she met her husband, Ted Quinn in Castleton, Ontario, and lived most of her adults life in Northumberland County. Despite her sophisticated urban upbringing, she fully embraced life on the farm, the beauty of Northumberland County, and the local arts community.The exhibition is made up of early work from her job as an illustrator in Cleveland, later paintings whose subjects include family members, Northumberland architecture, the family cottage in Colborne, Northumberland landscape, and flowers from her garden. As a young girl, Helen became interested in photography, and later her black and white photos recorded daily life on the farm, and especially the work carried out by the women.
Helen’s creative circle included the artist Tony Urquhart, husband of Helen’s niece Jane Urquhart,
Paavo Airola, her teacher and mentor, and Peter Kolisnyk fellow artist, who practiced in Cobourg
from the 1960’s through the 1980’s. Helen didn’t know Alice Duncan. She unearthed Alice’s
paintings in a second-hand shop, recognizing the merit in the work of a woman seriously pursuing her art. Alice’s work was not recognized in her lifetime as, following her death, her husband cut the paintings out of their frames, kept the frames, and took all of them to the local thrift store where they awaited Helen’s discovery.
Several paintings in this exhibition mark important times in Canadian history. In the painting “New Canadian”, Helen painted one of the Hungarian refugees who worked on her farm. This painting marks the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. Canada welcomed 37,500 refugees at this time, many settling in Northumberland County, working on farms including Helen and Ted’s.
Another portrait is of Mary Jane Muskratt Simpson, a respected elder from Alderville First Nation. “Aunt Min”, as she was known, was knowledgeable in plant medicine. She passed her knowledge on to her great niece, Kim Muskratt Waaseyaa-Kwe, who lives in Hiawatha First Nation today.
Helen Quinn was active in the local arts community especially as one of the founding members of the Art Gallery of Northumberland.
Co-written by Dorothy Caldwell, Guest Curator and Skye Morrison.