alan skeoch

So the 125th is over.  Return of the Native has happened.   Lots to think about…old friends, older teachers, still older hallowed halls of the old school.   Mistakes made.

Achievements that surpassed me.  Probably a few grads who considered me a fool.  And a few good friends who liked me in spite flaws.  That is how you know colleagues are more than just fellow travellers.

Friends forgive.  Friends like each other in spite of differences.   All these thoughts tumbled through my mind as I sat alone in the Humberside quadrangle.   Escaping from the pushing and shoving…the rubbernecking…the fondling…of those who came to the reunion.

What am I doing here?  Why did I come back?  What should I expect after a half century absence?  “I wandered lonely as a cloud..” came to mind.

And then I remembered.  I came back to see the mural…the Arthur Lismer extravaganza…the largest piece of Canadian art I had ever seen short of a Yukon sunset wile standing on the edge of a hanging mountain valley.
Marjorie did not want to come to the reunion.  “Who would I know?”  Then she commented on the possibility that my old girlfriends would be there.  Flattering but unlikely.  I always liked  girls.   None showed up.    But one ex-girlfriend  was there.  I never knew her name…never spoke to her…never held her hand…never walked her home from school…never danced with her..
But I liked her.  Looked at her often.  And there she was in the Humberside auditorium now called  the Lismer Hall.  She had not aged a bit.  Looked as young and attractive as ever.  Semi-clothed as well.   She  was on the wall…a dominating feature of the magnificent Arthur Lismer mural that the staff and students commissioned in 1929.   It took Lismer four years to finish the mural. I spent more years than that mesmerized by this image of a young aboriginal girl.
Hard to forget that  first dance at Humberside.  It was the fall  of 1953, early October and there was a bit of  frost in the air.  The auditorium seats had been-pushed  back to expose the floor.  I was a bit  nervous, a Grade Niner.  Fifteen years, old with lots of testosterone but clumsy on the dance floor.  The big guys in the upper grades were both intimidating and role models.   I expected them to be stand offish…ignoring the presence of the new kids but some were super social.   From the side door exit several gallon stone crocks were delivered…surreptitious hands looped the crocks to slurping mouths.  Not too accurately poured, for some,  sloshed down their cheeks.  First the seniors sucked back  a good slug of whatever those crocks contained.  Then the crocks moved from hand to hand … from boy to boy until  it was my turn.  Hard cider.  Rough cider.  Alcohol from rotting  apples and sugar.  “That will put hair on our chest, kid, take another drag.”
There  must  have been teacher chaperones although I don’t remember them.  Maybe they spent their time in the staff room with coffee cups.  No one stopped the crocks anyway.  Seems there were three or four circulating but imagination exaggerates  things.  Maybe only one crock.  Certainly one.
We  danced.  One of my dance partners was Elizabeth Kilty who I knew from our church.  She was very short.  I was tallish and lanky, infused with the
extra energy  of the hard cider.  The opening dances were square dances.   Lots of swinging.  With hard  cider energy I whirled  Elizabeth around…and up.
Not a good idea.  Should never have lifted  her.  She went up.  I released her and down she came…flat on her bum…legs in the air…underwear exposed.
Some thought her landing was funny.  Both Liz and I  were mortified.
As the  evening wore on the revelry  changed.  a fight broke out  among a couple of senior boys.  Their names are lurking in my long term memory but just won’t spill forward right now. The fight was serious business.  It began near the Exit door and then spilled out into  the darkness of that autumn evening.  Some followed.  Most continued  dancing.
Why should  you be interested?
Because that cute semi-clothed  Mohawk girl was looking down at us… just above our heads  on the wall.  Watching.  Perhaps disapproving of the hell raising, the dress flipping, the cider slugging, the cursing, the fist fighting, the romancing… all done by people  who had taken her land and did not seem to give a sweet goddamn about  her  and the Mohawk brave who sat along side her with his tomahawk flat to the ground… flat grounded  in defeat. A people soon to be  forgotten.
And that was the way the Lismer Mural became part of my life.   Not some grand lecture of the art of the Group of Seven.  Not some art historian pointing out how Arthur Lismer had combined oil paints with pastels to make this grand masterpiece.  My experience was as earthy as those  cider apples sitting bruised and perhaps wormy in the orchards not far from the Humberside auditorium.
There have  been many  books  and crtiques written about the Lismr mural. Educated stuff.  Intelligent.  Critical. Today there  are people who are offended by the murals.  With good reason.
Let me talk to myself for awhile.
“Alan, how come the Lismer mural is so much a part of you?  You don’t have much knowledge of art.”
“You  got that right. I am a doodler…not an artist.”
“Then why so interested?
“Get real!  it’s that girl.”
“What girl?”
“The brown skinned girl sitting  beneath the big image of Sir Isaac Brock.”
“Do you mean the girl  with exposed breasts.”
“Oh?  I hadn’t noticed.”
“You must be kidding.”
“She is only half clothed. “
“I wonder why Lismer did that…. painted her half nude?”
“Maybe because  he knew 15 year old males like you would be fascinated. Painted in the 1930’s… I saw it in 1953… to me that was really risqué.  Had  to look at her surreptitiously as did most of my classmates it seems.”
“It’s a  timeworn trick…”
“Using sex to fan the flames of imagination.”
“Meaning, maybe Lismer thought  you would  begin to appreciate the  full meaning of the mural… the big  picture.”
“Well, it did not work until now in 2017… that’s 64 years later.
“Slow learner?”
“Reckon so.   Now that I see the big picture,  I am not too sure I like it.”
“Seems sort of sad… she seems sad…”
“The Mohawk girl.  Look at her posture.  Posture of defeat… resignation… accepting  that her world of innocence and the splendour of living in harmony with nature are gone forever. And soon she will be gone.  Forgotten.  Perhaps assimilated.  Perhaps moved to some godforsaken corner of Canada and forgotten.
“Something a little odd here.  The other Mohawk (maybe Mohawk) image  is  so much larger…strange.  Does size of the people in this mural have significance.”
“You might be on to something here, Alan.”
“She is so small…”
“Look at the  other… odd posture of resignation also.  But bigger.  Sitting on a bearskin.  Maybe that represents  something.  The wilderness life… dependence on the natural world which is under threat maybe.  The  bear is dead.”
“Maybe we should look at this mural the way Lismer intended.”
“How is that?”
“The mural tells a story.  Best to start at the beginning.”
“The first panel?”
“Right, there are four panels…apparently there were five originally.”
Arthur Lismer (1885-1969) was commissioned by the Humberside Collegiate Literary Society to produce a  mural for the school auditorium. The mural
was intended to  ‘raise national consciousness’ so Lismer decided to represent Canadian history in five parts.  Four of these have
been restored an placed in the new  auditorium thanks to Mel Greif and his Centennial Committee who raised $100,000 to retrieve and repair the mural after the  old auditorium was  demolished and  the mural rolled up and  almost forgotten.
“So this is the first panel, seems to be dominated by the  Union Jack flag held by Wolfe  after he defeated  Montcalm on the Plains of Abraham.  Montcalm sits there defeated.”
“I  doubt that this mural would be popular in a Quebec High  School.”
“You got that correct.   But suitable for Toronto in the 1930’s… a largely Anglo pro-British city.”
“Who is the other guy…in blue cape with his arms  crossed.”
“That’s Sir Isaac Brock who defeated the Americans in the War of 1812”
“Seems to me Tecumseh and his warriors had a big role in that defeat.
“They did… see him standing behind Brock.”
 But I am not sure if that is Tecumseh.  Maybe just a symbolic native person…see how his war axe is cast down…symbolic of acceptance that the original people are now secondary.”
“Not exactly a prominent position but at least he is given recognition.”
“Better than Montcalm…head bowed and  perhaps weeping into the French flag.”
“Weeping? Not bloody likely, he was dead…as  was Brock.”
Panel 2: Lismer Mural
Dominating the second panel are well dressed European explorers and ‘discoverers’ standing on a high hill and marvelling at their new possessions.   The First Nations people, a man and a woman, are secondary and seem submissive.
“My  favourite panel…makes me think of my shocked surprise in 1953…”
“How come she is only partly dressed…naked almost?”
“Never though much about a reason.”
“Would a white woman have been treated this way?”
“Do  we have to see sexism in everything we say and do?”
“Wish it were not so but that seems to be a fact of life these days.  Don’t think Lismer gave it a second thought but were he alive today he would have changed  his mural I think.”
“First off would be the native woman. She would be clothed and given a role.  As it stands she seems to have nothing to do but stare wistfully at those European explorers.”
“Explorers?  They called themselves discoverers.  And to prove ownership of their discoveries  they planted their flags…both French and English up here and elsewhere in the Americas were the Dutch, Portuguese  and Spanish.   All planting flags as if the lands were empty.  In truth, there were  millions of people already here.”
“Why did they allow Europeans to take over?”
“They tried  to fight back but failed.  Diseases got hundreds of thousands  of them… measles, smallpox… and  then there  was malnutrition after the wanton slaughter of the buffalo in the west.  European explorers found whole  villages dead because smallpox moved faster than the  European adventurers.”
“Someone said Lismer’s mural is Eurocentric, what does that mean?”
“Europeans, and  that includes  the English and the Scots, believed they were superior people with the God given right to dominate  the world. It was natural for them to write history books that took European domination for granted.   And in art,  like the Lismer mural, the conquest of North America is interpreted through  European eyes.”
“Take a close look  at the first  two  panels.  Proves the point.”
Panel 3: Lismer Mural
Each  of the people  portrayed  stand  for worthy values.
…Truth, Beauty, Wisdom, Courage and Motherhood.
This panels  dominates all the others as the eyes of observers
are drawn to the high peak… the worthiness these values are  to be emulated.
“I have trouble with this panel.”
“Because  the people portrayed are wearing what looks like Greek or Roman togas. Canadians do note wear these things.”
“Lismer made this the dominant panel for a reason.”
“And  the reason?”
“I am not sure but I  think the purpose of education is drawing out the best in students.”
“What has that got to do with wearing a bedsheets?”
“Sort of  emphasis on purity…maybe innocence.”
“Yes, something  like that… not sure though.
“Truth, Wisdom and Courage are ideals we  value are they  not?”
“And  Beauty?”
“Makes  me think of that Mohawk girl in Panel Two.”
“Beauty  is  broader than that.  How about a sunset or the pattern of a snowflake or a Monarch butterfly?
“Or a newborn child… Motherhood.”
Panel 4:  Lismer Mural
What  is the result of people who value Truth, Wisdom, Courage, Beauty and Motherhood?
Canadians trump the natural world… Canada.  There is a boy reading a book, a mother with a child, and sturdy pioneers  shaping the land with axes and scythes… tools poised for action.  Victory over the land by Europeans.
With the help of the original people who carry the packsacks for white adventurers.
“Now this  panel makes  sense,  People doing things.  Men clearing away the forests with axes and logging hooks.”
“Who is that guy carrying the pack sack?”
“Brown skin… must be  a native.”
“How  would you interpret his role in this panel.”
“Pretty damn obvious… he is working  for he  white men… carrying their loads.:
“Who is the dominant figure?”
“The guy in the blue shirt.”
‘Who is he supposed to  be?”
“A farmer.”
“Breaking up land after the trees have been felled and hauled away by the second  largest figure… the logger.”
“Triumph, right?”
“Carving  up the land into blocks of 100 acres… crushing the wilderness.”
“What do you  think the person with the packsack is  thinking.?”
Panel 5:  Lismer Mural
No longer extant. But it was installed in 1932 . This panel featured representatives of Canadian young people standing in front of
images of 20th century such as sky scraping office buildings, vast ploughed fields and aviation symbols.
Arthur Lismer’s paintings are strikingly different from his Humberside  Mural. Perhaps he undertook the job just as he  undertook other  commercial art projects… for the money.  Six members of the Group of Seven supported themselves by commercial art projects.  Designing packages, sales signs,   Maybe the Humberside  Mural was just a job.  I doubt it.   But the mural does stand in sharp contrast to his wilderness paintings of twisted pine trees in agony from  water storm winds or lashing turbulent waves of Georgian Bay.
“So, why is the mural famous?
“Painted by Arthur Lismer…”
“Lismer…LISMER…helped found Group of Seven.”
“Group of  whom?”
“Come on… don’t kid around.  You are just playing with me.   The Group of  Seven was crested in 1920 by a bunch of artists who believed Canadian landscapes were astounding… Franklin Carmichael, Lawren Harris,  A.Y. Jackson, Franz Johnson, J.E.H. MacDonald, F.H Varley and Arthur Lismer…”
“You forgot Tom Thompson…”
“No… Thompson mysteriously drowned in 1917 in Algonquin Park.  If he had lived they would have called themselves the Group of  Eight…does not sound so romantic.
“I thought those guys painted  bashed up mountains and ragged jack pines with waves and  wind  lashing them?”
“That’s what most Canadians think…obviously not true…look at the mural here…mostly people…a history of Canada  in huge panels…perhaps the largest
mural of its time.”
“How long did it take to do.”
“Four years, maybe longer.”
“And  isn’t it odd for a man like Lismer to spent his time painting the wall of a high School auditorium?
“You said ‘a man like Lismer’… what did you mean by that?”
“He was rich, wasn’t he?  I read somewhere  that a painting of his sold for nearly a million dollars.”
“Your  thinking of ‘Spring on the Sackville River’ which sold for $855,500.”
“Rich man, right?”
“That was sold in 2016…Arthur Lismer died in 1969.  He never got rich… few painters ever do until long after they die.”
Spring on the Sackville River, Nova Scotia, sold for $855,500 in 2016
Values of Lismer paintings:
 1) Dark Pine,  Georgian Bay, $241,500 in 2007
2) Reflections, Georgian Bay, $140,400 in 2010
3) Pines,  Georgian Bay,  $152,100,  in 2010
“These paintings are so different when compared to the Humberside mural… could  have been done by a different painter…”
“Agree… may be possible because I see  the word  ‘collaboration’ mentioned…seems others  may have been involved but  Lismer is  dominant…and
different.  Of course  he was  different… grew up in a tough place.  Sheffield, Yorkshire  as a kid, sketching.  Just fooling around as kids do. Some of his work involved cartoons later… like the cartoons on the  editorial pages  of newspapers.  He was versatile… even humorous.”
“Educated guy I bet.”
“Parents were not wealthy… his  dad was a textile salesman.”
“Poor, then?”
“Let’s just say his family was getting by but they were certainly not toffs…gentry.”
“Born in Sheffield… good silverware came from Sheffield. England… sold all over the world… must be nice place.”
“Are you joking?  It was a grubby industrial city when Lismer was a kid.  Working  class.  Low  wages, dirty jobs… even dangerous jobs.  Early deaths  for workers.”
“How can manufacturing knives and forks and spoons and silver plated tea pots be dangerous?”
“Grinding metal without face masks… put tiny pieces metal in the air… then into lungs… silicosis must have been the result for many just like the coal miners in Newcastle which was not that far away.  Frederick Engels described Sheffield in 1844 this way:”
In Sheffield… certain branches of work are to be noticed here, because of their extraordinarily injurious influence upon health. Certain operations require the constant pressure of tools against the chest, and engender consumption in many cases; others, file-cutting among them, retard the general development of the body and produce digestive disorders; bone-cutting for knife handles brings with it headache, biliousness, and among girls, of whom many are employed, anæmia. By far the most unwholesome work is the grinding of knife-blades and forks, which, especially when done with a dry stone, entails certain early death. The unwholesomeness of this work lies in part in the bent posture, in which chest and stomach are cramped; but especially in the quantity of sharp-edged metal dust particles freed in the cutting, which fill the atmosphere, and are necessarily inhaled. The dry grinders’ average life is hardly thirty-five years, the wet grinders’ rarely exceeds forty-five.[73]
“Now that was more than 50 years  earlier but the city does not seem to have change much.  On the streets of Sheffield Little Arthur Lismer had difficulty finding natural; beauty that he seems to have craved. indeed,  Even the footpaths seem to be  barren.”
“Sterile is a better word…that footpath below doesn’t even have weeds.”  “Grim.  Yes.  But not far away were the hills  and dales of rural Yorkshire.  Sheep, stone barns, cattle, cheese factories, grist mills and miles and miles  of green grass  field hemmed in by stone fences.  Arthur saw these fields at some point.  Maybe not often but any visit to rural Yorkshire is remembered forever.  I’ve been there.”
 “Quite a contrast.”
“Contrast aids thought.  Lismer’s upbringing was in sharp contrast to the overwhelming beauty he found in the Canadian wilderness.   He seems to have been particularly  overwhelmed by the way wild winds twisted and contorted the Jack Pines of Georgian Bay.  Just imagine the impact by looking at the footpath (below) and then his “Pines on Georgian Bay (above)”
Sheffield circa 1900.  Not a tree in sight.

Dirty Old Town

I met my love by the gas works wall
Dreamed a dream by the old canal
I kissed my girl by the factory wall
Dirty old town
Dirty old town
Clouds are drifting across the moon
Cats are prowling on their beat
Spring’s a girl from the streets at night
Dirty old town
Dirty old town
I heard a siren from the docks
Saw a train set the night on fire
I smelled the spring on the smoky wind
Dirty old town
Dirty old town
I’m going to make me a good sharp axe
Shining steel tempered in the fire
I’ll chop you down like an old dead tree
Dirty old town
Dirty old town
I met my love by the gas works wall
Dreamed a dream by the old canal
I kissed my girl by the factory wall
Dirty old town
Dirty old town
Dirty old town
Dirty old town
“You may find these lyrics too much to handle.  Stick with me.  I have always loved Dirty Old Town (sung by many including The Pogues) because it adds music and poetry to  the visual impact of industrial England.  Little wonder that so many migrated to  Canada in those years before World War One.”
Sheffield factory circa 1900
Sheffield street scene circa 1900.  Canadian officials had much success encouraging young men from Sheffield to migrate to Canada.  The boy on the right in the lower right corner appears similar to Arthur Lismer, even holding what could be a sketch pad.
As a boy, Arthur Lismer would go on long walks at night which worried his mother for the city streets were dangerous.  Lismer loved the natural world of trees and country lanes.  Such were  hard to find in Sheffield around 1900.  The countryside outside Sheffield  was beautiful and  is currently one of the largest heritage regions of Britain… Yorkshire Hills and Dales.   Did  Lismer ever get that far?  Doubtful.
Sheffield craftsmen  and women produced some of the finest metalware in the world.  But there was a cost.
“That’s Arthur Lismer with the prominent forehead, second from the right.”
“In 1920 Carmicael, Harris, Jackson, Johnston, Lismer, Macdonald and Varley got together … formed theGroup of Seven…lasted until  1921…another guy joined them in 1926 called A.J.Casson.’
“They were an odd  lot.  Landscape painters…loved our northern wilderness. Toured our empty lands.   ”
“Like the north shore of Lake Superior…brutal place, images of a  harsh and stark land.”
“Where did  they get  that name?”
“Having a  coffee or a beer, the seven of them were trying to  think of a name that would give them character…a name they could use to market their paintings.  Critics and friends , later, would call their work “hot mush”, a slur more than a name.”
“Then one of them, perhaps Lismer, said ‘Why not call ourselves the Group of Seven’?”
“Funny name but let’s run with it… and  now the name is known by most Canadians and their paintings sell for millions of dollars.”
Must have been rich men to be able to wander around so much.”
“Only Lawren Harris was  wealthy. Inherited  money from the Massey Harris Company, manufacturers  of farm machinery made in Ontario  but sent
around the world in the early 20th century.  Harris bankrolled some things. The rest of the fellows worked as commercial artists doing advertising broadsheets and such.”
“Very odd that Lismer became famous… cards  stacked  against him.”
“That’s  for sure. Luckily he got a scholarship to a Sheffield art school.  Night courses for seven years. Then more years doing commercial art in England… came to realize prospects for work in Sheffield were close to nil.  Associates and friends had  already buggered off to Canada.  Lismer decided to do the same and  migrated to Toronto.  Best move  he ever made.”
“Explain this term ‘Hot Mush’
“Let me try.  Get a canvas and lots of bright coloured oil paint, thick brushes.  Now drive  to Georgian Bay or some God forsaken lake in Algonquin Park.  Pick a distressed Jack Pine maybe and then start to paint…FAST.   A trunk twisted and contorted, a dark green blob for living matter, some red and gold for underbrush, perhaps a dark grey slash across  the top for stormy sky and steel blue water with white  foam, rocky red granite outcrop ground smooth long ago by the age of ice…  Hot Mush.  Canadian wilderness.”
“Get off it, the Group of Seven did lots of different things.”
“Just trying to simplify… Hot Mush… do an impression with gusto and  colour…and do it with energy.  How’s that?”
“OK, but keep your day job.”
“I am just trying to give a short version.  You want the big picture?”
“Then go to the McMichael Gallery in Kleinberg… just a stone’s throw north of Toronto… you’ll find 6,000 pieces of their work and the graves of six of the fellows.”

An understanding of psychology, a touch for the maternal, and a capacity for looking at the world through the eyes of a child – these are the marks of good guides and teachers.  

Lismer was a social person.  He thought art should be shared and encouraged by all classes of people.  So  he gathered young people together and prompted them to press themselves.  He likely noticed that children love art when they are very young and their imaginative representations are exciting.  Somehow, as  they grow older, their artistic endeavours end  for most young people. Why?  Criticism maybe.  Lismer wanted art … doing art … to become part of daily life for as many people as possible.
Lismer believed artistic expression was in all of us, particularly young children.
One of Arthur Lismer’s sponsored Children’s art classes
Artistic expression … having fun with art … A Lismer comment of the Jazz Age.
The original Group of Seven included Franklin Carmichael, Lawren Harris, A.Y. Jackson, Franz Johnston, Arthur Lismer, J.E.H. MacDonaldand F.H. Varley. They befriended each other in Toronto between 1911 and 1913.
Just because Sheffield was  ugly…streets without greenery, houses built row on row,  smoke with sharp edges enclosed, long hours of work  with little reward…. just because of all  this and more does not mean Sheffield was a backwater.   Quite the opposite.  Engels quote in 1844 associates Sheffield with social thought of the day… Karl Marx in particular.  Remember the opening of the Communist Manifesto?  Here’s  a reminder, “The  history of all hitherto existing people is the history of class struggle.” Marx argued that violence  was inevitable since the rich would never give up their wealth voluntarily.  Through the 1860’s Sheffield had  confrontation  between workers and capitalists that culminated in the ‘Sheffield Outrages’… bombings and murders  by union extremists.  In 1866 the Sheffield Trades Council formed the United Kingdom Alliance of Organised Trades which would ultimately become the Trades Union Congress.
Where  did  Lismer fit?  Did he nuzzle up to the owners of capital, traditionally funders of art, or was he sympathetic  to the earthy and confrontation prone labour movement?
Lismer only became an artist after years of studying  art at night  school.  But his mind was in harmony with the labouring classes.  “In Sheffield,  he came to believe that art was the right of the many, not a  privilege of the few.’
Arthur Lismer’s family were  Unitarians and this liberal approach to religion was another factor that affected his approach to art.  The free expression the Group of Seven when they broke away from the European art strait jacket could be expected for the Unitarians had broken away from the concept of the Three in One…i.e. the  Father, Son and Holy Ghost basis of much Christian thought.  Lismer’s parents and their Unitarian fellow travellers admired  Jesus Christ but considered  him a normal human being whose ideas…ideals…were worthy of emulating.
Sheffield was quite a city for a young boy to mature from child to adult.  It is worth noting that five of Lismer’s fiends in the Group of Seven also had to work in commercial art in order to support their adventures as interpreters of the Canadian wilderness.
They had their detractors… lots of  them… who rejected their work describing it as  ‘hot mush’… just splashing of colour on a canvas… waste of good paint and stretched canvas.  Being born and raised in Sheffield  gave Lismer the guts to go against the tide.
When I looked at the Lismer  Mural  at Humberside Collegiate in October 2017, a  lot of questions came to mind.
1) I noted  the huge panels were  described as the result of Lismer’s collaborative approach to art.  Collaborative?  Does that mean a bunch of unrecognized artists also contributed to the massive work?   Likely.   No sure anyone can answer that question.
2) The Mural was a gift of the staff  and students of Humberside to their high school.  And it was a gift stretching over many years from 1927 to 1933.  Did it take 6 years to finish the painting.  What prompted staff and students to commission such a piece  of work?  How much did  they pay Lismer?  Who led?  There must have been a person who came up with the idea of the mural. Who was he… she?  There must have been a  powerful argument presented by someone.  Was it Lismer?
3) The Great Depression was triggered by the stock market collapse of 1929. This happened  in the middle of the years  when the mural was being painted.
Did the Depression have any effect on the project?
4) The Mural is not typical of the work being done in those years by the Group Seven.  No Hot Mush.  Human beings dominate the panels.   Hints  of the Canadian wilderness are present but definitely background hints.  Would it be safe to say that the Humberside  Mural is not typical of Group of Seven.  Maybe but other members were also doing urban paintings…villages in Southern Ontario for instance.
“All this began for me on that October night in 1953… first dance. I was just a lowly and frightened Grade Nine kid suddenly immersed in something far bigger than myself.  So big it was mystifying.   Turning Liz Kilty, my dance partner upside down  was only part of it.
The senior boys  passing around those hard cider crocks. (Was it several or just one crock?).  God awful taste that made me feel  adulthood would not be all sweet and light.  Then a fist fight occurred and bled out the auditorium door into the shadowy  movements of a moonstruck night.
So exciting.  Especially when the whole affair was being politely watched  by that beautiful young Mohawk girl painted larger than life on the  west wall, a mural painting so large that my neck had to twist upward.
She was so sad. I wondered why… Only now do I realize she was watching her culture disappear, watching her people  be moved to the  periphery of
Canadian life.  Watching us.  And not too sure we were worthy inheritors of the land.
alan skeoch
Nov. 2017
(thoughts  after 125th reunion of Humberside Collegiate)
1) Canadian Historical Murals, 1895-1939 – Material Progress, Morality and the disappearance  of Native People,  by Marilyn McKay , Nova Scotia College  of
Art and Design, Halifax, Nova Scotia.
2) Lismer in Sheffied, by Anita  Grant, Montreal
3) Arthur Lismer’s drawings for the Humberside mural; development of  a grand patriotic theme,  Hodkinson, Ian,  1935- , 1992, book, 48 pages, Toronto Public Library, 751.73074 L39 H57 reference only

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