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A hat, a brush, and a humble soul

Many aspects of Gerald Squires are encapsulated in this freshly minted piece, developed in memory of the late artist. From left to right are artist John Woodman, Holyrood Heritage Society Curator Linda Fraser, artist Tom Metcalfe, and Gail Squires, widow of Gerald Squires. Chad Feehan Local Journalism Initiative Reporter Photo

Holyrood Heritage Society honours Newfoundland’s late, great Gerry Squires

By Chad Feehan / Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Beloved Newfoundland artist Gerald Squires was honored at the Holyrood Heritage Society Museum, Art Gallery and Gift Shop this week with the unveiling of a new, original artwork created in his memory.
Squires died in 2015 after spending a lifetime highlighting Newfoundland’s rugged scenery, as well as spending time with portraiture and religious imagery.
Although he lived in numerous places across the continent, Newfoundland was always the centre of his artistic heart. Squires grew up in Exploits, moved to Toronto as a young man where he worked in newspapers as an artist and designer, before coming back to Newfoundland and exploding on the Canadian art scene as one of the country’s most talented painters. For some years, Squires and his family lived in the Ferryland lighthouse, which became a beacon for many Newfoundland artists. In later years, Squires and his family lived in Holyrood where Squires kept a studio and perfected his mastery of sculpture in addition to his famous landscapes, portraits and paintings that explored religious themes.
The depiction of Squire’s iconic hat, which he indeed wore everywhere, was painted by Dildo artist John Woodman who has spent 30 years working on his craft.
Woodman was inspired by Squires upon their meeting 20 years ago, and felt a resurgence of that inspiration upon visiting the museum’s gallery of his artwork about a month ago. After watching a documentary on the artist’s life, he was moved to tears.
“The tears were rolling down my face,” he said.
Woodman was three days working on the painting before its completion, when he called on friend and fellow artist Tom Metcalfe to arrange the frame surrounding the picture, composed of gnarled root and rock, some of Squires’ favorite subjects.
“I’ve been painting for 30 years, and that’s my favorite one,” he said. “It means so much.”
Squires had died before Metcalfe got into the artistic field, but he is just as grateful to lend his craft to the project.
“It’s an absolute honor to be a part of it,” he said.
He, too, was moved by the Squires collection in the Holyrood gallery.
“When I came in through the door, it was an emotion. It hits you… he just inspired you. Whether you know him or not, he’s an inspiration.”
For widow Gail Squires, it’s the passing on of inspiration through the hands of many artists that comes to her mind, rather than honoring her late husband.
It’s about bringing out the passion in others.
“It’s not about Gerry even though the painting is about Gerry,” she said. “It’s about bringing out in others the community and inspiration.”
The recently unveiled piece can be viewed at the Holyrood Heritage Society Museum, Art Gallery and Gift Shop, along with a collection of Squires’ originals.
The museum has nominated Squires for the Premier’s Medal as part of the Year of the Arts and is eagerly awaiting the result. Locally renowned author Tom Dawe wrote a touching piece to go along with the nomination, which was enough to move museum curator Linda Fraser to tears.
“I’m telling you, it’s phenomenal what he wrote about Gerry,” she said. “We get that same feeling from everybody related to Gerry.”

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