Dickie ready for 'Home Grown' to come the Festival Art Gallery
BY SCOTT STEPHENSON
It’s been a long time coming, but Lucknow-based photographer Hannah Dickie is still very excited to showcase her work at the Blyth Festival Art Gallery this summer after the COVID-19 pandemic forced multiple postponements to the previously scheduled solo exhibition.
“Home Grown”, a collection of photographs that capture elements of the rural setting of Dickie’s upbringing, was originally intended to debut in August of 2020, but a combination of freshly imposed public health measures and an abundance of caution shelved the show for nearly three years. Unfazed by the delay, Dickie has been using the additional 1,030 days to produce a larger body of work, expand the scope of her project’s narrative, and reflect further on the formative nature of her rural environment and its impact on shaping her personal outlook and current worldview.
Dickie’s will be the first of three professional exhibits in the gallery’s 2023 season. As the homestreth to opening day approaches The Citizen caught up with Dickie at the local library branch in Lucknow on a frigid and snowy afternoon in February to discuss the ongoing preparations for her summertime show, dealing with pandemic delays, meditations on family and small-scale agriculture, and the exciting and vibrant local artist community in Blyth.
“I have a passion for focusing on rural life,” says the 20-something photographer perched upright in a chair beneath a prominently displayed book about American pop singer Billie Eilish on the library’s wall. “Photography has given me an opportunity to showcase the rural landscape and open people’s eyes to the moments that aren’t often documented in the life of a small-scale farmer; stories that maybe aren’t told very often.” Dickie, a 2019 graduate of Oakville’s Sheridan College with an honours bachelor’s degree in photography, began work on the “Home Grown” project after realizing many of her urbanized peers had very little exposure to Ontario’s rural experience.
Dickie’s father, Walter, a hobby farmer and maple syrup producer, acts as Hannah’s muse for “Home Grown” and is prominently featured throughout the work. Hannah says the focus on her father is intended to provide viewers with context for where she comes from and to contribute to the overall narrative of life on a small-scale farm. Dickie says viewers should also watch out for lamb-related imagery that she uses as a surrogate to represent herself in the work.
Dickie grew accustomed to the feeling associated with having her show rescheduled repeatedly throughout the tumultuous early years of the pandemic. Initial pangs of disappointment were quickly replaced with an understanding of the responsibility to keep artists and the general public safe. This doomed cycle, vaguely reminiscent of the plotline from the Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day, might have spoiled the enthusiasm of a more cynical artist, but Dickie has taken the delay in stride.
Pandemic-related disorder, she explained, gave her a deeper appreciation for rural living and life on the family farm.
Dickie shared some insights into her creative process leading up to the June 16 opening. “The work over the next few months is to sort through the original images for the show and the new ones taken over the last three years and see how everything fits together. The plan is to lay out the photographs in a way that makes sense for those coming to the show.”
Dickie says she hopes that the audiences in Blyth and the surrounding community, as well as those who are visiting the area for the summer, connect with her work. “I’m grateful to the Blyth Festival Art Gallery and the Blyth community for their support,” expressed Dickie. “The rural setting sets a perfect tone for this show.”
“Home Grown” may be Dickie’s first professional gallery show, but it is not the first time her work has been displayed by the Blyth Festival Art Gallery. Previously, a watercolour painting by Dickie was featured in the Student Show while she was enrolled at F.E. Madill Secondary School in Wingham a few years ago. Dickie said she appreciates the early exposure she received to the thriving artist community in Blyth.
More information about Hannah Dickie is available at hannahdickiephotography.ca
“Home Grown” runs from June 16 until July 15 at the Blyth Festival Art Gallery.