Rodin and Mary Pratt

rodinIf you have the chance to visit the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia between now and May 22, don’t let it pass you by. Jenny and I took the morning off to spend a couple hours roaming the gallery, and it was exactly what we needed. We’re feeling totally energized and at peace right now. It was amazing.

We spent the first hour and a half looking at Rodin bronze sculptures, the real deal — you know, the guy who did The Thinker? Man, seeing those things up close and personal is an experience that cannot be reproduced. The bronze sculpture of two hands touching (called The Cathedral) left me stunned. I thought The Thinker or even The Kiss would have got me good. But nope, it was those huge hands shaped like a cathedral (both right hands I later discovered) that moved me the most. For the first few minutes, I was so drawn to it and oblivious to everything going on around me, I didn’t bother to read the title. When I did, I had one of those moments where you say, “Holy shit, ” in total awe of the experience. “The Cathedral” is the perfect title for that sculpture. I couldn’t keep my eyes off it.
Mary Pratt - Jelly Shelf (2003)

But what really choked me up was the Mary Pratt paintings, like the one shown here. It looks like a photograph (click it to enlarge it), but up close you can see the actual brush strokes. The effect of slowly walking back from the painting as it reveals itself is so dramatic, I don’t know what to tell you except that you have to see it to believe it…

Then I got hit by what I was looking at: Mason jars full of home-made jam; a day’s catch of herring (which could have easily been trout) spread out on a backyard deck; a kitchen table set for breakfast; a carrot cake or some kind of fruit cake, one of those large ones with a hole in the middle and icing sugar frosting on the top, with a huge piece cut out of it — all of it food, I guess, but objects that are so specific to life on the Atlantic coast, especially Newfoundland… man, she nailed it. Most of my family is from Newfoundland, and I spent almost a decade of my adult life living there. What can I tell you? I identify so intimately with the subjects of her paintings, I know them all so well, I came close to crying looking at those stupid Mason jars.

Talk about art… I’m done talking. It was the best four dollars I’ve spent in a long time.

About Phillip

Phillip Cairns is a beekeeper in St. John's, Newfoundland, who writes about beekeeping at

8 Replies to “Rodin and Mary Pratt”

  1. My first girlfriend’s family was all tight with the pratts. She and I babysat their kids a few times. They had art on their walls, it totally didn’t affect me, I was more worried with eating as much of their food as I could. They had a nice house though with like, the middle island thing in their kitchen and big bay windows overlooking the bay (for once those big windows were named properly).

    Or maybe that was a different pratt family who is also famous for their art, I dunno.

  2. I got Pender saying Mary Pratt’s paintings are nothing special, and I got Steve calling my friend a knob. I’m surrounded by heathens!

  3. Actually, that picture you posted of the jars looks wicked. Though it does nothing for me cause I mean, they’re freakin’ jars for christ sakes. I do think it’s neat, but since I don’t actually care about the jars it doesn’t affect me. It would have been easier to just take a picture, but I guess then I’d be missing the whole point about humans duplicating their environments perfectly onto 2-dimensional mediums to trick the eye to impress their friends and whatever. I’m sooooo uncultured!

    Your friend IS a knob.

  4. Whoever wrote the stuff about babysitting is full of it. How do I know? Becasue I am actually a family member and I ended up here looking for something else about my mother (MP). The world is full of idiots. I liked your comments though Phillip…mom would too…

  5. I recently saw “Jelly Shelf” in The Rooms in St. John’s. It was included in a Mary Pratt exhibit. I was floored! It’s amazing to see in person. The light is just unbelievable! I just had to stand and soak it up! I’m now on a mission to find a print of this … not that it will do it true justice!

  6. They did have a lovely house. We shot a TV ad there once. I’ve met both artist Pratts, and two of their children, one of whom I worked with full-time, and the other on occasion, and they’re lovely people. Some of my favorites. Mary is the sweetest person you’d want to meet. We worked with her on a medical equipment funding campaign and she was a treat to meet. I originally thought her paintings to be TOO realistic. But as Phillip posted, one of the real tricks to her work is that they ARE paintings, and it’s fascinating walking up to one and away again, watching the work transition from painting to photograph seamlessly. We just bought a print of her Apple Glass work, and while it’s not my favorite (the Mason Jars) it’s a great thing to hang in your house.


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