Top News

Cape Sable Island woman’s work is out there for everyone to see

Joanna Gilman Hyde painting Self Organizing Galaxy on the roof of the former 5 World Trade Center building.
Joanna Gilman Hyde painting Self Organizing Galaxy on the roof of the former 5 World Trade Center building. - Contributed

A very public artist

Cape Sable Island artist Joanna Gilman Hyde has a history of thinking big. Her first project after graduating from art school in 1983 was rather ambitious. It was a 10,000-square-foot painting on a rooftop in Lower Manhattan.

“I was inspired by seeing the patchwork of fields on a plane ride above the Midwest,” she recalls. “Then I looked for the most visible rooftop in the world.”

The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council endorsed the idea, and the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey gave permission to paint the work on the roof of 5 World Trade Center. After almost a year of planning and eight days of painting, she completed and signed the multi-coloured spiral on Oct. 10, 1984.

“I called it Self Organizing Galaxy,” Gilman Hyde recalls. “It was modelled after our Milky Way Galaxy, and was meant to be a form that would go on forever.”

The canvas was sewn together in 29 panels, and required some 500 gallons of latex paint. A video of the work being created can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UBwhOS9wqH4

“It was a giant watercolour. I used lots of water from a hose, and buckets of diluted paint, spread around with a mop and then a janitor’s broom,” she recalls. “The spiral shape was outlined by a pattern of sandbags.”

Located on the roof of a 10-storey building at the base of the twin towers, and within the sightline of numerous nearby office skyscrapers, the painting was perfectly situated for maximum visibility. Based on the number of office workers in surrounding buildings, not to mention the tourists who visited the observation deck of the WTC, Gilman Hyde estimates it was the most visible rooftop in the world.

The painting was displayed for two months. Almost 17 years later, 5 WTC was one of seven buildings lost in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Another of Gilman Hyde’s works, Stratospheric Universe, was created in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the Shag Harbour UFO incident, on Oct. 4, 2017. That 30-foot by 40-foot painting was later damaged by a blizzard as it lay on her front yard.

“A third of the canvas blew apart,” she says. “I was able to retrieve innumerable shards of dried paint and I’ve been incorporating those shards into new paintings in my studio. Each time there’s a storm I retrieve more paint, so I then have more material to make into more paintings.”

Another of her works, Good Morning Star Shine, is on display at the Lunenburg Art Gallery for the month of October. She is planning a sale of her artwork on Nov. 22 and 23 at her home.

Gilman Hyde grew up in Rockland County, New York, but her grandparents had a summer house near Shelburne, so she spent many summers in Nova Scotia, and is now a resident of Cape Sable Island.

“I became a landed immigrant in 1977 as a teenager, and a Canadian citizen in 1995,” she says. “I’ve lived on The Hawk for nine years.”

Gilman Hyde is also a prolific poet, with 2,838 original poems posted on her blog.

“I started writing that blog in 2012, and it’s mostly inspired by my life here on The Hawk,” she says. “A lot of it is about nature, but there are also many personal writings.”

Going public with one’s deepest feelings of pain and loss is not an easy thing to do, she says, but it is worth the risk.

“I call myself a public artist,” she says. “I put my work out there for everyone to see.”

Recent Stories