For this exhibition, families from the Halifax Military Family Resource Centre were invited in 2006 to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (AGNS) to give present-day context to the painting Entrance to Halifax Harbour by A. Y. Jackson, a Canadian War Records artist. This artwork chronicles the events of the Canadian Fleet steaming into Halifax Harbour in 1919 with the troops returning home at the conclusion of the First World War. The work is on loan from the Tate Gallery, London, to AGNS, where it is currently on display.
Alexander Young Jackson (Canadian, 1882-1974), Entrance to Halifax Harbour, 1919, oil on canvas, 64.8 x 80.6 cm. Long term loan to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia from the Collection of the Tate Gallery, London; Tate: Purchased 1924.
Reunion offers a glimpse into the thoughts, ideas and feelings of families today who are directly involved with the military and who might be living in those same homes depicted by Jackson 88 years ago—families bidding farewell to mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, adjusting to changes in their daily lives, and then celebrating the safe return of their loved ones.
Mixed emotions characterized the responses of various family members when they viewed the Jackson painting. After a discussion and a sharing of ideas, family members participated in a studio workshop at AGNS to create their own works of art in response to the painting—works inspired by their own homecoming experiences.
The stories shared in the Reunion exhibition have importance and relevance in all of our lives. This exhibition is about transitions in people’s lives, resiliency and, ultimately, what it means to come home.
“During a visit to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, I was approached by a very young man who wanted to show me his painting, which he dedicated to his father; it showed the ocean and the sky, a drum and a guitar, a heart and a family waiting. His father, he told me, was in Afghanistan. The unforgettable experiences that inspired this young artist—farewell, absence, waiting and homecoming—are the same experiences that every soldier’s family goes through. Whenever I meet with them, I am always touched by what they have to say, sometimes even overwhelmed. I am pleased that this exhibition focuses on their perspective: from heartbreaking farewells to joyful reunions. See how Nova Scotian families have chosen to express themselves.” – Michaëlle Jean