In June 2009 I completed my M.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies at York University. As part of this degree I wrote a thesis on a Nova Scotian folk artist named Harold Cromwell. This project traced the history of black settlement in Nova Scotia and the development of the Nova Scoitan folk art, so as to provide an analysis of Cromwell’s distinct oeuvre and locate his work within this rich history and aesthetic tradition.
Read Chapter 1 of Telling It Like It Is: Harold Cromwell and the Black Nova Scotian Folk Art Tradition
Despite centuries of black settlement and cultural production in Canada’s Atlantic provinces, only one black Nova Scotian folk artist, Harold Cromwell, is represented in the collection of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. In spite of this institutional recognition, however, no scholarly inquiry into Cromwell’s practice has yet been published and no exhibition dedicated exclusively to his work has been mounted to date.
Working within a cultural studies framework this thesis presents the first sustained scholarly examination of Harold Cromwell’s distinctive drawing practice, or what I have termed his “nervous line.” This project details his personal history, the emergence of his unique aesthetic, his position within Nova Scotian folk art and the political implications of his practice, in order to introduce Cromwell as an important and prolific folk artist within Canadian art scholarship, and thus recuperate Africadian artistic production within Nova Scotia’s folk art tradition.