Artist makes top 100 most-accomplished list
At 72, Joan Butterfield could easily rest on her laurels. She’s produced and sold her art for close to 30 years; it sits in public and private collections around the world.
She’s also served on the board of Caribana, the cultural festival held in Toronto each summer, and has curated critically acclaimed exhibits.
It’s an impressive package that last week got the Bermudian on a list of Canada’s most accomplished black women. She spoke with Lifestyle about the achievement.
Q: Where have you been named as one of the most-accomplished women in Canada?
A: 100 Accomplished Black Canadian Women is a book, an educational directory and resource tool. It has been designed to document the ground-breaking achievements of black Canadian women. It highlights, documents and makes visible their accomplishments and the role they played in shaping Canada.
Q: Why were you chosen for the list?
A: For my achievements in the field of visual arts. I have been a practising artist for more than 30 years — produced and curated more than 200 exhibits, authored a book and written many articles that encourage and assist budding artists. I’ve become the matriarch to a community of African-Canadian artists.
Q: Do you know who nominated you?
A: [Former Canadian House of Commons member] Jean Augustine, one of the authors of the 100 Accomplished Black Canadian Women.
Q: Your reaction once told?
A: I’m always surprised and humbled when receiving such recognition.
Q: Where in Canada do you live?
A: I live in Burlington, Ontario. A beautiful town about [37 miles] from Toronto, along the shores of Lake Ontario. It has recently been named the best mid-sized city in Canada. It is also the home of Canada’s largest rib festival.
Q: Why did you leave Bermuda?
A: I left Bermuda in the early 60s to study in Boston. I then joined my future husband, Sheridan Butterfield (also a Bermudian) who was studying in Canada. Our intention when we married was to start our life in Canada, stay for only five years, then return to Bermuda. More than 50 years later we are still here.
Q: Fondest memory of Bermuda?
A: My wonderful childhood and the village that raised me. All of my parents’ friends were my aunts, uncles or godparents — a little confusing when you’re a kid. However we wanted our children to experience that, so we sent them to Bermuda every summer when they were young.
Q: Do you visit often?
A: Yes! Two of our children now live in Bermuda, so we come at least twice a year. We have had fun at times playing tourist, coming into Bermuda on one of the cruise ships. We have also, over the years, visited and stayed at the Southampton Princess.
Q: What do you miss most about living here?
A: I so miss my long walks along the tracks in Somerset and down through the farmers’ fields to make my daily visit to Heydon Chapel. I often capture these landmarks in my works.
Q: You’ve served on the board of directors for Caribana. What do you think of efforts to have a carnival here?
A: I was appointed to the board and served as a member for five years during which time we were able to start several new initiatives and form some strategic partnerships. I was truly excited when I heard that Bermuda had, at long last, added a carnival event to its calendar.
It could and should increase visitor arrivals. Here in Canada we have catered to known groups that travelled the world looking to play Mas. I’m sure once they hear about Bermuda they will add it to their itinerary
Q: Favourite piece of art you’ve created and why?
A: My favourite and most-challenging work was turning a piano into a Bermudian cottage.
I was commissioned by the Pan American Games organising committee to represent Bermuda and had the pleasure of being a part of the worldwide art project Play Me I’m Yours.
I took an upright piano and turned it into a little pink Bermuda cottage. It became quite the attraction while sitting on the sidewalk outside the Royal Ontario Museum in downtown Toronto.
Q: What kind of art do you do?
A: Early in my career I was drawn to the 17th-century art form of three-dimensional découpage. [It] allowed me to tap into my creative energy and freely apply and utilise my artistic skills.
It is from the basics of this art form, that The Butterfield Technique was developed. [With that] the artist uses an outline of their own drawings. Copies are dimensionalised, then painted.
This dimensional piece from their own drawings has now become their canvas. This process and treatment turns it into an original piece of fine art. My new and most recent works are photo artistry.
I’m pushing photography beyond the boundaries of the conventional, each piece originates from a photograph image.
I have found a way to layer, blend and apply various effects and filters thus creating composition truly fit for fine-art canvas. I refer to it as distorted realism.