Mad, bad, and dangerous to know is how Victorian society dismissed Emily Carr. She once referred to herself as a little old lady on the edge of nowhere. But she was a great traveller. She saw more of Canada and parts of Europe than the majority of people of her time and class, and more than many of us have done, even today. Her quest to be an independent woman and a modern artist took her from the studios of Paris deep into the remote Native villages of the West Coast forests. It was a lifetime journey of almost mythic proportions in which she struggled to define not only herself but also her country. It is said that Emily Carr sublimated all her erotic impulses into her paintings. Like Georgia O’Keefe, she rejected such interpretations. The anonymous carvers of the totem poles led Emily toward the shadows, and in them, she found a way to the light. A creator of extraordinary power, a seeker after mystical truth, and a woman of unusual courage, Carr was one of those unique individuals who articulated the symbols and images by which Canada knows itself.
Lewis DeSoto, a painter and critically acclaimed novelist, presents Carr’s story as a version of the great quest story: a search for God, freedom and the essence of art. He comes from a world that in many ways echoes Carr’s turn-of-the-century British Columbia. Born in South Africa in 1952, his too was a Dominion nation of astounding natural beauty, yet struggling with the complexities of a marginalized indigenous population. DeSoto eventually immigrated to Canada and studied painting at what is now the Emily Carr College of Art. He has exhibited work in galleries across Canada. His essays and short fiction have been published in numerous journals and he is the recipient of the Writers Union Short Prose Award. DeSoto’s debut novel A Blade of Grass, set in his native South Africa, has garnered him much attention and critical acclaim.
“A painter himself, Lewis DeSoto was an inspired choice to write about Emily Carr. He understands and is able to define the artistic and spiritual impulses which drove Carr and to relate, as well, to the satisfactions and frustrations of her career . . . A fascinating portrait.”
—The London Free Press