The Hookers" of New Brunswick"
Rug hooking has a long history as a traditional domestic craft, but about twenty women from the Canadian province of New Brunswick have put a new spin on it. They practice rug hooking as a contemporary art form.
They call themselves Les Hookeuses du Bor’de’lo or, wryly, “The Hookers,” and use the age-old rug hooking technique to create unique mats, tapestries, and wall hangings. Their designs range from the realistic to the abstract. Their palette runs the gamut from pale ivory to vibrant blues and crimson. Their choice of such materials as metal is sometimes unorthodox. Like other 21st century artists, they refuse to be confined by past practices.
Each year, the hookers -- many are professional women: nurses, teachers, a school principal, a costume designer, etc. -- choose a theme that all work on at their regular meetings. Each interprets the theme in her own project, which represents between 300 and 600 hours of work. Their work is now so popular that art centers and museums exhibit their work.
The Saint John Museum recently exhibited “Divine Fenêtres… Sâcrées Hookeuses!” (Divine Windows…Sacred Hookers). Inspired by the stained glass windows of Acadian Peninsula churches, the group chose as their theme the cultural/religious heritage of the Acadians. Travelers exploring the beaches along the Acadian Peninsula in the province’s northeast corner may wish to stop at the churches to see the windows that inspired the hookers. Although all of this year's works take the form of church windows, all are different.
An art educator and professional artist whose art has been shown around the world, Gisèle Léger-Drapeau’s multi-media wall hanging is based on a church window in Caraquet. Her ambitious composition features a border of jet beads that frames an image of Christ with a crown of thorns fashioned from iron wire. “A rich array of techniques and mediums keeps me constantly motivated and heightens my creativity.” She says. “I welcome artistic challenges.”
Linda Corbin of Shédiac likes the challenge of giving new life to an old tradition by using recycled materials. She says, it is “a noble way of savoring the adventure that is creativity.” Her window from a church in Lemèque shows an intricate border framing three vertical panels. The center panel shows the standing silhouette of Mary praying. “Rug hooking is a way to express my emotions well beyond words,” she says. It elevates her into a meditative state which transports me into my imagination.”
A University of Moncton graduate, Line Godbout retired from a career in the federal government and immersed herself in the arts. Her rug is a classic design of a dove flying above a cross and two fishes beneath it. She is the cultural manager for the group and is proud to “participate in the transmission of this great heritage of our ancestors.”
Annie Richard’s love of color is evident in her rug’s rich red and beautiful abstract design. Since she started to hook 13 years ago, she has made more than 600 rugs and a large tapestry, many featuring her interest in landscapes, wharves and outdoor scenes. A lifelong gardener, she says, “flowers provide a rich source of inspiration for my designs.”
“Textiles offer interesting creative possibilities,” says Lynn Losier of Moncton, who prefer to use natural fibers. “I choose with care when it comes to the colors and textures that will shape my hooked rugs.” Her pale beige and ivory rendering of the church in Saint-Isadore where her parents were married reconnects tradition with a surprisingly modern work.
Photo by Richard Moskow.