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Driven to Create: All Things Barns And Fields

Now while they can take the girl off the farm, it is equally true that you can’t shake the farm roots out of her!  All Things Barns And Fields is a loosely compiled body of work from local pastel artist and photographer, ecmunson, who grew up in the Finger Lakes region on a dairy farm. She has been chronicling farms, fields, and barns for the past four decades with her photography and, more recently, rendering some in soft pastels. 

The Kitchener-Waterloo area up near Heidelberg had one spot that she hiked and photographed for close to a decade, an abandoned Old Order Mennonite farm.  

“Set way back in from the road, you walked in on the laneway. There were no phone nor hydro lines going back in there with you either. You already had this sense of leaving one era behind you and entering another. And just as you crested a small hill, there in a shallow valley was what was left of a large stone house, crumbling foundations of a barn and small outbuildings, fields, and orchard. A time capsule for me back in the early 1980’s, now the rolls of film I shot are such a treasure to mine for those hints of yesteryear and a lifestyle, the family farm, which is fast disappearing.”

Today ecmunson continues to explore the hills of Caledon and Dufferin County to chronicle those glimpses of past years. The intimate nestling of small sheds and outbuildings around the main more enormous barn or barns in a barnyard holds a particular fascination for her. While she has memories of playing in the haymow, granaries and corn shed as a child, the corral encapsulates the heart of industry for a family farm. Out of those structures come the livestock and equipment that represent a family’s livelihood and any hired hands. Around those hubs of daily chores and seasonal cycles, an entire economic unit hums with activity.  

As rural Ontario and vast stretches of land across North America were settled and developed, these barnyards and homesteads, the family farms, became like spokes on a wheel and created the basis for communities and cities to evolve and thrive. It is farms and families in an area such as Caledon that continue to reach out further into the community to market their products in a vastly different economy now as part of agribusiness.   

ecmunson’s Old Apple Trees, circa 1982, was shot on the abandoned Old Order Mennonite farm. It is compelling in its simplicity with a sense of floating free in time. 

Its soft moodiness at dusk, just as the snow was starting to fall, was further enhanced by the moisture already hanging heavily in the air from a late winter thaw. This has been rendered now as a Limited Edition Giclee print, 11×14 inches on acid-free art paper, as part of her Archival Collection: Analogue Meets Digital World. 

Old Apple Trees, the matted and framed Limited Edition Giclee print, has just had its first bid in the Dundas Valley School of Art’s annual art auction, with submissions accepted through 10 pm, Saturday, April 17. Bidders from around the world follow this event and pick up pieces for their art collections. Along with several fellow and sister members of Latow Photography Art Guild, ecmunson’s work was juried into this event and now hangs for virtual viewing and bidding with 1200 pieces of art.

“The original hand-pulled print I did of this in my Kitchener-Waterloo darkroom back in the early 1980’s hung for six months in 2018 at the Ontario Legislative Assembly’s in-camera dining room at Queen’s Park. That opportunity to have pieces juried into that venue came from Visual Arts Brampton. A number of us went down to have lunch with our pieces in the “A la Carte” show and even had our MPP, Sara Singh, come down to greet and congratulate us.” 

Further reflections on why this body of work is essential to her and the magnetic pull of countryside vistas so absorbing evoke a considered and passionate response.

“Love of the land, the lifestyle of the family farm, they are such a crucial part of how strong communities were built! 

I feel so blessed to have experienced this way of life which is fast disappearing. The roll of those hills, crumbling foundations of barns, the orchards still producing some fruit decades after people moved on – all of that is hauntingly beautiful to me. The land remains, it remembers us, and it gifts us with so much! 

Of all the places I’ve visited, this remains one of the most poignant for me as there is such a march of time-stamped on its very being. Farmed by people who did not use electricity, then abandoned, now lying fallow again, how long will it be remembered for its inherent natural beauty?

I do feel compelled and driven to document and honour these traditions and valuable parts of our heritage. Family farms are an indispensable part of how Ontario, Canada, all of North America really, was settled. They need to be remembered as a way of life and for the development of strong families and communities.

Ephemeral and Evocative, Enduring Images – that is why I “chase the light” lest they be forgotten.” You can visit ecmunson’s website at Studio By Design and follow her columns on arts and cultural events in Peel Weekly News.  This piece was written as told by ecmunson to her alter ego, Nelia Munson, a pen name for her fiction.

Old Apple Trees by Dufferin News Contributor Connie Munson
Old Apple Trees circa 1982 by Connie Munson

Local photographer and member of Latow Photography Guild, ecmunson, has had three of her photographs accepted into the Dundas Valley School of Art’s Golden Anniversary [50th] Annual Art Auction, which is on from April 12 – April 17 online.  With 1200 pieces of art in this juried online event, local photographers and artists will have their work going “on the block” for several days alongside work from acclaimed artists such as Norval Morriseau.

Her pieces are Old Apple Trees, Hoary Frost, and Dry Stack Stone Fence, lots 1036, 1037, 1038, respectively. Old Apple Trees, circa 1982, is a Limited Edition Giclee print from ecmunson’s Archival Collection: Analogue Meets Digital World. Her original hand-pulled print of Old Apple Trees hung for six months in 2018 at the Legislative Assembly of Ontario’s In-Camera dining room at Queen’s Park. The other two are digital captures rendered as canvas prints.

ecmunson joins several Latow Photography Guild members in their traditional support of the DVSA event as a major fundraiser for its programming. The stature of this annual auction, with its draw of bidders from across Canada and internationally, makes it an equally important venue for showcasing and marketing local and regional artists and artisans. 

Along with Monique Campbell and Frank Myers, two other Latow members, ecmunson has work currently hanging in the Everything Beaux show at Beaux Arts Gallery of Brampton. Several Latow photographers frequently show at this gem of a gallery in downtown Brampton which offers themed exhibits, open calls, and has been a participant exhibition site for the Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival.

Connie Munson (ecmunson)
Connie Munson (ecmunson)

Involved with several arts organizations in the area, such as Beaux Arts Gallery, Credit Valley
Artisans, and Headwaters Arts, ecmunson sits on the HA board and is honoured to have work
accepted in the DVSA’s prestigious event. A regular contributor to arts newsletters and local
media with arts and cultural related columns, she recently launched her website, Studio By
Design© with its subscriber based Artful Pics BULLETIN.

References – Driven to Create: All Things Barns And Fields

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