Museum exhibit to explore Seaway through O.C. Madden’s paintings

Clelia Scala next to her sculpture of O.C. Madden. Photo by Adam Prudhomme.

Adam Prudhomme

Lennox and Addington County Museum and Archives will have a decidedly nautical theme over the summer as they launch a new exhibit, The Seaway of Yesterday.

Coinciding with the launch is May 21’s Tuesday Night at the Museum talk, For Want of a Lighthouse with author Marc Sequin.

He’ll speak of the building of Eastern Lake Ontario lighthouses between 1828-1914. General admission is $3 at the door and the event gets underway at 7 p.m.

The talk will also serve as the grand opening of the museum’s newest exhibit, which will feature the works of Napanee-born artist O.C. Madden. The Seaway of Yesterday contains nine original oil paintings on loan to the museum, featuring Madden’s depictions of the early days of small towns located along the St. Lawrence Seaway, including Bath, Morrisburg, Iroquois, Aultsville, Dickinson’s Landing and Cardinal. Many of the settings are Madden’s interpretations of what these villages looked like when they were first settled. It was his way of capturing the towns, many of which were forced to relocate with the creation of the Seaway 60 years ago. Construction of the Seaway lead to nine Ontario communities to become ‘lost’ when they were permanently submerged.

“He was heart struck by the Seaway project, he knew it was a story that needed to be told,” JoAnne Himmelman, curator with the L&A County Museum and Archives said of Madden. “He went along the river, he photographed it and sketched it and put it to canvas. His legacy is the story of the Seaway, in his own eyes through his artistic conceptions.”

A well known local artist, this collection will feature some works of Madden that aren’t part of the museum’s regular catalogue.

“He’s a Napanee guy,” said Himmelman. “Hopefully people can come in and appreciate he was a renowned artist in his own right. He moved to Toronto, opened a successful studio there and painted with some famous artists, but meanwhile he maintained his small town roots.”

Included in the exhibit is a life-sized sculpture of Madden, created by artist Clelia Scala.

“It was really a neat challenge,” said Scala, who had only five black and white photos of Madden to work with.

“There’s a lot of planning and thinking about the best approach,” she said of creating the sculpture. “I do a lot of work with puppets so I thought about it in that way. The different weights and materials and what would work well. I knew he had to be in here a long time and he had to be durable.”

The end result is a sculpture of Madden on the water, painting one of the scenes along the Seaway.

Born in 1892, Madden passed away in 1971 and is buried in Napanee.

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