An 80-year-old sketchbook has inspired a Sechelt artist to create a unique exhibition in memory of an uncle who was also an artist, killed in action during the Second World War.
Lynda Manson’s exhibition, Tracing Footsteps, is based on sketches by Bruce Graham Black, an uncle she never met. Black, a brother of Manson’s mother and a graduate of the Ontario College of Art in Toronto, was a Royal Canadian Air Force bombardier, killed in a crash during a mission near Paris on June 3, 1944. He was 22 years old.
“I recently acquired the sketchbook of my uncle that contained sketches of places he visited [during the war] while he was in the RCAF,” Manson told Coast Reporter. “I used his sketches as inspiration for the paintings.”
Manson mounted the exhibition at a gallery in New York City in October 2019. A show was also scheduled at the Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden in April 2020. “It got cancelled because of the pandemic,” said Manson. “But as things moved along, we saw that we weren’t going to be able to hold that exhibition anytime soon.”
So, Manson has put together an online exhibit which she will show in an hour-long Zoom presentation on Sunday, Jan. 24, at 2 p.m. It’s a ticketed event ($10), with all proceeds to be donated to the Sunshine Coast branch of the Canadian Federation of University Women’s (CFUW) bursary fund, which supports local women who are seeking further education.
“It’s basically a narrated slideshow,” Manson said. “I’ve got slides of the paintings and his sketches. I’ve also got slides showing each step in the process of creating one of my paintings.”
A book based on the exhibit has also been produced and is available in softcover and digital formats. It contains notes, poetry, Black’s sketches, the paintings Manson extrapolated from them, and more.
“Several paintings in this exhibition are inspired by some of the artists whose work Uncle Bruce would have studied while attending the Ontario College of Art. The remaining paintings are based on [his] pencil sketches,” Manson writes in the book’s introduction. “He spent several months in northern England and Scotland training for his role in the war. These locations were inspiration for his sketches.”
Manson said she combed the Internet, literally tracing her uncle’s footsteps, “to try to find the geographical locations of these works so that I might obtain an informed understanding of the surrounding environment.”
One of the paintings is right out of Manson’s imagination, picturing her uncle looking down from the clouds at his young bride and widow, Gloria Morgan, a concert pianist who taught at the Julliard School of Music in New York City.
“It’s not just a story about my uncle but there’s a love story involved,” Manson said. “There’s lots of things that could be appealing to people, I hope.”
Tickets to the Jan. 24 presentation are available at eventbrite.ca. Tickets and the Tracing Footsteps book can also be purchased at cfuwsc.org.