Earth Science and Art

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Peggy's Cove #3
photography, landscape, texture, line, hand-held camera, geology, perspective, looking again, black and white photo, tension in an artwork, photo series, Swiss Airplane crash, texture in photographs, Peggy's Cove, exposed granite, techtonic plates, erosion, ocean tides and waves,
description

With Joan Rankin’s rendering of Peggy's Cove, from the MacKenzie Art Gallery collection, we get to the bedrock of what art is all about. Peggy's Cove is a small fishing community south of Halifax, Nova Scotia, but its rugged beauty and picture-perfect lighthouse have made it one of the most painted and photographed locales in Canada. Because it is so easily accessible, the lighthouse may be the most photographed in the world.

start quoteI loved going out along the shore and seeing the landscape from the water. And of course there was a lot of rock involved in that.end quote-- Joan Rankin

The landscape of this area of Nova Scotia has a history that began at least 380 million years ago when the  graniteA crystalline, granular rock, consisting of quartz, feldspar, and mica, and usually of a whitish, grayish, or flesh-red colour. (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)  that dominates the landscape today formed from molten rock that cooled about 15 kilometres below the surface. Tectonic and erosional forces operating over hundreds of millions of years then removed overlying rocks to expose the granite.  Over the last 20,000 years, the rugged coastline has been carved and shaped by glaciers and the action of ocean tides and waves. The many bays and coves along the coast provide safe harbour for fishers, who continue a centuries-old way of life.

While Peggy's Cove is primarily known as a tourist destination, the crash of a Swissair plane off the coast was a sobering reminder of the importance of the traditional way of life that continues here. Fishers went out in their boats at the risk of their own lives, hoping to pull survivors from the Atlantic. All 229 people aboard were killed in the crash.  

Rather than present us with another  picturesqueIn general, this may refer to any scene which seems to be especially suitable for representation in a picture, especially that which is sublime. It is especially associated with an aesthetic mode formulated in the late eighteenth century which valued deliberate rusticity, irregularities of design, and even a cultivated pursuit of quaint or nostalgic forms. Such pictures became common in nineteenth century Europe and America. Examples can be found among the American painters of the Hudson River school — Thomas Cole (1801-1848), Jasper Cropsey (1823-1900), and Asher B. Durand (1796-1886) — and of the Rocky Mountain school — Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902) and Thomas Moran (1837-1926). (artlex.com)  postcard view of the sea, the land and the sky, Rankin captures a view of the geological underpinnings of Peggy's Cove. She visited the place in 1972, scrambling over the rocks while her sister nervously looked on. Handholding her camera, Rankin was looking for “texture, lines, cracks and crevices” in the ancient rock.

Peggy's Cove # 3 is one of the  seriesA number of things or events standing or succeeding in order, and connected by a like relation; sequence; order; course; a succession of things; as, a continuous series of calamitous events. (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)  of photographs Rankin took during her visit. When she displayed the photos she turned the horizontal images to vertical, mimicking the dominant theme of her paintings, vertical  colourProduced by light of various wavelengths, and when light strikes an object and reflects back to the eyes. Colour is an element of art with three properties: (1) hue or tint, the colour name, e.g., red, yellow, blue, etc.: (2) intensity, the purity and strength of a colour, e.g., bright red or dull red; and (3) value, the lightness or darkness of a colour. When the spectrum is organized as a color wheel, the colours are divided into groups called primary, secondary and intermediate (or tertiary) colours; analogous and complementary, and also as warm and cool colours. Colours can be objectively described as saturated, clear, cool, warm, deep, subdued, grayed, tawny, mat, glossy, monochrome, multicolored, particolored, variegated, or polychromed. Some words used to describe colours are more subjective (subject to personal opinion or taste), such as: exciting, sweet, saccharine, brash, garish, ugly, beautiful, cute, fashionable, pretty, and sublime. Sometimes people speak of colours when they are actually refering to pigments, what they are made of (various natural or synthetic substances), their relative permanence, etc. (Artlex.com)  bars against a  backgroundPart of the picture plane that seems to be farthest from the viewer.  of strong, primary colours. Because the photos Rankin took at Peggy’s Cove are black-and-white, the emphasis is on the  textureThe quality of surface in a finished artwork; note that this can apply to painting in describing the way that the paint is applied to the canvas or other support; to sculpture in describing the way that the material used is made smooth or rough; or to video in describing the way that the light-based image is either smooth or visibly broken up into pixels.  of the rock, the tension created by the vertical lines within the  frameSomething made to enclose a picture or a mirror; or an enclosure composed of parts and joined together; or to make such things. (Artlex.com)  and the various  shadesDark value of a colour made by adding black.  of grey and black.

additional resources Education
Duration: 1:42 min
Size: 7258kb
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Duration: 2:04 min
Size: 9278kb
First Career
Duration: 2:26 min
Size: 10514kb
Peggy's Cove
Duration: 1:59 min
Size: 8519kb
University Experience
Duration: 1:45 min
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Things to Think About
  • The vertical shapes that appear again and again in Rankin’s work could have many meanings, including similarities to banners used in celebrations. Is this evident to you in Peggy's Cove # 3?
  • Do you think people should be told they are viewing a “doctored” photograph?
Advanced Activity

Social Studies link

Online Activity
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Go "beachcombing" at Peggy's Cove

You will find  flotsamGoods lost by shipwreck, and floating on the sea; -- in distinction from jetsam or jetson. (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)  and  jetsamGoods which sink when cast into the sea, and remain under water; -- distinguished from flotsam, goods which float, and ligan, goods which are sunk attached to a buoy. (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)  lying on the beach.

Start your journey through Peggy's Cove, and when you reach each question mark, click on it to look underneath and discover more about Peggy's Cove. Finish your walk at Peggy's Cove’s most famous tourist landmark: the lighthouse. Perhaps your walk will inspire you to create a visual response about what you have discovered.

Studio Activity

Micro worlds

Joan Rankin’s photograph might not look like a  landscapeA painting, photograph or other work of art which depicts scenery such as mountains, valleys, trees, rivers and forests. There is invariably some sky in the scene. (Artlex.com) Landscape is also a term that may also refer simply to a horizontally-oriented rectangle, just as a vertically-oriented one may be said to be oriented the portrait way. (Artlex.com)  because it has no horizon or reference point. But landscapes can take the form of  microscopicOf or pertaining to the microscope or to microscopy; made with a microscope; as, microscopic observation. Able to see extremely minute objects. Very small; visible only by the aid of a microscope; as, a microscopic insect. (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)  close-ups. In reality, the photograph might be just a crack or seam in a rock face, but stare at the photo, and you start to see pictures within the surface.  Imagine it to be a landscape on a larger scale: a mountain or a road or even a location somewhere on the moon.

Peggy's Cove Moonscape

Discover some micro world landscapes:

  • Take a close-up photograph in the natural outdoor environment.  You might choose an interesting rock surface, a tiny patch of soil, an area of textured grasses, an unearthed tree root, or any interesting surface you can find.
  • Look closely to discover the images within the lines and shapes of your close-up photographs. There are many micro worlds to discover.
  • Write a description of your imagined larger landscape.
Science Behind the Art

By:  Fran Haidl, Saskatchewan Ministry of Energy and Resources, with contributions from Barrie Clarke, Dalhousie University;  Rob Fensome, Geological Survey of Canada, Atlantic;  and Garth DeMont, Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources

Lighthouse The coastal community of Peggy's Cove – and its famous lighthouse – are situated on a large body of  graniteA crystalline, granular rock, consisting of quartz, feldspar, and mica, and usually of a whitish, grayish, or flesh-red colour. (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)  that is about 380 million years old. This photograph, taken by artist Joan Rankin several decades ago, captures the appearance of a vertical exposure of  graniticLike granite in composition, color, etc.; having the nature of granite; as, granitic texture. Consisting of granite; as, granitic mountains. (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)  rocks in this area. The granite is composed of crystals of the  mineralsAn inorganic species or substance occurring in nature, having a definite chemical composition and usually a distinct crystalline form. Rocks, except certain glassy igneous forms, are either simple minerals or aggregates of minerals.  (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)   biotiteMica containing iron and magnesia, generally of a black or dark green color; -- a common constituent of crystalline rocks. (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)  (black), and also of quartz, feldspar, and muscovite, all of which are lighter in  colourProduced by light of various wavelengths, and when light strikes an object and reflects back to the eyes. Colour is an element of art with three properties: (1) hue or tint, the colour name, e.g., red, yellow, blue, etc.: (2) intensity, the purity and strength of a colour, e.g., bright red or dull red; and (3) value, the lightness or darkness of a colour. When the spectrum is organized as a color wheel, the colours are divided into groups called primary, secondary and intermediate (or tertiary) colours; analogous and complementary, and also as warm and cool colours. Colours can be objectively described as saturated, clear, cool, warm, deep, subdued, grayed, tawny, mat, glossy, monochrome, multicolored, particolored, variegated, or polychromed. Some words used to describe colours are more subjective (subject to personal opinion or taste), such as: exciting, sweet, saccharine, brash, garish, ugly, beautiful, cute, fashionable, pretty, and sublime. Sometimes people speak of colours when they are actually refering to pigments, what they are made of (various natural or synthetic substances), their relative permanence, etc. (Artlex.com)  than the biotite. The large size of the crystals indicates slow cooling of the magma from which they formed.

The story of the granite began when two ancient landmasses collided about 400 million years ago, creating a mountain range much like the Himalayas today. Parts of the earth’s crust were thrust deep beneath the surface where the heat was sufficient to melt these  crustalRelating to a crust (the exterior portion of the earth, formerly universally supposed to inclose a molten interior.) (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)  rocks. The molten material (magma) intruded upward until it cooled and solidified into  graniteA crystalline, granular rock, consisting of quartz, feldspar, and mica, and usually of a whitish, grayish, or flesh-red colour. (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)  at an estimated depth of 15 km beneath the ancient land surface in what is now southern Nova Scotia. Millions of years of slow uplift coupled with weathering and erosion have removed the former overlying rocks and exposed the  graniteA crystalline, granular rock, consisting of quartz, feldspar, and mica, and usually of a whitish, grayish, or flesh-red colour. (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)  that you see today at Peggy's Cove. The dark angular fragment in the top right corner of Rankin’s photograph is a “foreign” piece of rock (xenolith) that was picked up by the intruding magma on its journey towards the surface. The cracks that cut through the  graniteA crystalline, granular rock, consisting of quartz, feldspar, and mica, and usually of a whitish, grayish, or flesh-red colour. (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)  in this photograph originated as joints and fractures that formed during the cooling of the  graniteA crystalline, granular rock, consisting of quartz, feldspar, and mica, and usually of a whitish, grayish, or flesh-red colour. (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)  and perhaps during subsequent collisions of other ancient continents. Once they have been exposed to the surface, these cracks have been enlarged, by weathering processes such as freeze-thaw cycles.

Peggy's Cove

Many aspects of the landscape we see today at Peggy's Cove reflect sculpting by glacial processes when glaciers moved across this part of Nova Scotia about 20,000 years ago. The Cove (coastal inlet) itself was formed by glacial erosion along a  setThe hardening process of paint, plaster of Paris, concrete, resin, an adhesive, or any other material which must harden before working with it further. (Artlex.com)  of closely spaced fractures. In the photo below, taken in 2007, the  graniteA crystalline, granular rock, consisting of quartz, feldspar, and mica, and usually of a whitish, grayish, or flesh-red colour. (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)  boulders, called “erratics”, that litter the surface were plucked out by the glaciers and left behind when the ice melted. The sloping landforms, known as “roches moutonnées”, so named because they were thought by some people to resemble reclining sheep, are also the result of glacial action. They feature a smooth gentle slope on the side from which the  glacierAn immense field or stream of ice, formed in the region of perpetual snow, and moving slowly down a mountain slope or valley, as in the Alps, or over an extended area, as in Greenland. (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)  came and a steep, commonly jagged, slope on the other side (in this 2007 photo the  glacierAn immense field or stream of ice, formed in the region of perpetual snow, and moving slowly down a mountain slope or valley, as in the Alps, or over an extended area, as in Greenland. (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)  moved from right to left). Smooth polished surfaces produced by glacial movement are also common on many rocks without the “reclining sheep” profile. In some places, the smooth surfaces display parallel grooves made by rock fragments embedded in the base of the glaciers as they moved across the granite. These grooves, called “glacial striations”, reflect the direction of glacial movement. No striations are clearly visible in the 2007 photo, but any that might be there would be parallel to the long axes of the roches moutonnées.

Useful websites:

 

References

Author unknown.  Joan Rankin - Recent Paintings.  News Release, Regina Public Library, September 27, 1966.

Author unknown.  ‘Local artist given display.’  Moose Jaw Times-Herald, October 14, 1966.

Author unknown.  ‘Paintings.’  The Sheaf, University of Saskatchewan, November, 1966.

Author unknown.  ‘Public School Art Director Aiming for Master’s Degree.’  Moose Jaw Times-Herald, August 14, 1968.

Fitzrandolph, Kyle.  ‘Rankin exhibition a show of colour.’  Regina Leader Post, October 4, 1966.

Gessell, Paul.  ‘Rankin Paintings Show at Museum.’  Moose Jaw Times-Herald, November 7, 1969.

Author unknown.  Joan Rankin.  Exhibition catalogue.  Moose Jaw Art Museum, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, 1969.

Kritzwiser, Kay.  ‘Bonli Gallery.’  Toronto Globe and Mail, May 13, 1967.

Mendenhall, Marie.  ‘New art  formIn its widest sense, total structure; a synthesis of all the visible aspects of that structure and of the manner in which they are united to create its distinctive character. The form of a work is what enables us to perceive it. Form also refers to an element of art that is three-dimensional (height, width, and depth) and encloses volume. For example, a triangle, which is two-dimensional, is a shape, but a pyramid, which is three-dimensional, is a form. Cubes, spheres, ovoids, pyramids, cone, and cylinders are examples of various forms. Also, all of the elements of a work of art independent of their meaning. Formal elements are primary features which are not a matter of semantic significance — including colour, dimensions, line, mass, medium, scale, shape, space, texture, value; and the principles of design under which they are placed — including balance, contrast, dominance, harmony, movement, proportion, proximity, rhythm, similarity, unity, and variety. (Artlex.com)  for local artist.’  Moose Jaw Times-Herald, March 8, 1982.

Smith, Heather.  Joan Rankin: A Persistent Image.  Exhibition catalogue.  Moose Jaw Museum and Art Gallery, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, 2005.

Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning