Out of the Woods brings together three carvers from northern New Brunswick who are inspired by nature and share a love of working with wood on a small scale. Their divergent intentions for their work reinforced by their stylistic choices confirm their individual voices despite their common materials and tools.
Born and raised in Riverbank, James has been sculpting all his life and has been carving for over 30 years. A self-taught carver James also works in steel, stone, and assemblage. Working out of the River Art Centre Studios, James also regularly teaches a variety of classes.
“I can’t stop making art – always have – and carving, working in 3 dimensions has always interested me. I am also a keen observer of nature and the habits and characteristics of birds. Carving the birds starts with selecting the right shaped block of wood, and carefully forming the body by paying very close attention to the unique characteristics of each species. Looking closely at the shapes inside the animal’s form, like the swell of the beak, tilt of the head, the pattern, shape and layers of feathers and all the other distinguishing characteristics that each bird has, I try to capture the natural stance of the bird. In the final colour, I strive for as great a verisimilitude as possible. Flock, 2020, on loan from the Public Art Collection of the Town of Florenceville-Bristol, is a collection of birds that are common to the Upper Saint John River Valley”. James Buxton
“I love to work with my hands – can’t keep them still or stay in one place unless I am working on an art piece. I like to think that I am plagiarizing nature with my birds. Making them real”.
Francine Simard Levesque
Francine Simard Levesque is a self taught artist, born and raised in the northwestern part of New Brunswick. At a young age she was surrounded by artistic people who encouraged her to explore in every artistic discipline presented to her. Francine started to create with wood in 1985 and now concentrates on sculpture only.
“It is creating with the beauty of wood that makes me want to be an artist. When I find a piece of wood, I have no control over what I see. It is the spirit of the forest, of the trees that speak to me and that show me the human faces and animals I make. I try to keep that spirit alive in the sculpture. Every piece I make shares the forest spirit and carries the message “Keep the trees alive”, for the animals and for us.”
“The forest is a visualization of my feelings when in the solitude of the trees. It is the softness of the air and the smell of the leaves. It is the coarseness of the bark and the sounds of the animals. I feel it all. I am part of the forest and it is part of me.” Francine Simard Levesque
“En réalité, c’était la sculpture qui m’attirait. J’ai grandi à Edmundston et lorsque je me rendais à la cathédrale de l’Immaculée-Conception, j’étais fascinée par les sculptures et les détails. Je trouvais ça impressionnant. Lorsque j’ai appris qu’il y avait un groupe de sculpture à Grand-Sault, je me disais que j’irais rencontrer ces gens pour avoir des outils et je me suis mise à sculpter avec eux.”
Colin Smith taught high school art, theatre, and English for 20 years. His work has been exhibited in galleries throughout NB and is included in public and private collections. For 11 years, his drawings and cartoons were featured weekly in the Salon section of the Telegraph Journal. He works out of his studio in the River Art Centre in downtown Florenceville-Bristol.
“I have always drawn. Several years ago, I decided my drawings did not look solid enough on the paper. So, I started carving, to figure out how to give my drawings a sense of weight. And it worked. It showed me some stuff about drawing, by making me look at it differently, and I grew to really enjoy carving.”
I work small. The shape of the wood generally determines what’s carved. Some of my whittlings look like residue from my distant ancestors. Some of them look a bit more modern. They are worked with knives, chisels, and axes, in a very unsophisticated way. I have found that every cut changes my idea of the project. I may start out with an idea, but the wood itself, by breaking and revealing its shapes and curls , keeps editing and suggesting. I never know how the little carvings will turn out, and that’s why I do them.
The Boat sculpture is the result of Jamie Buxton’s misbegotten attempt to pull me into the twentieth century. He showed me how to use rotary carvers, and The Boat is the result. It is a tribute to schools and to Carleton North High School, the building I spent the last twenty years in. It is an affectionate good bye to what I still think is the greatest, and most important, job in the world.” Colin Smith
“Life inspires me. For years I drew people interacting, in supermarkets and streets. I drew high school kids, simultaneously terrified and deeply self-assured. And I drew thousands of cartoons, and published some of them in the Salon Section of the Telegraph Journal for a decade – historical, topical, linguistic – really anything but overtly political. I have a sketchbook with me always and I draw everything. It is, after all, a way of seeing.”