Elizabeth MacKinnon moves to Saint John New Brunswick in 1939 to find inspiration for her poetry in the bohemian life of the city’s central peninsula. Swept up in the vibrant society of the city’s poets, painters, potters, dancers, and playwrights, she finds herself joining their struggles to make sense of making art in a time of economic depression.
Inhabiting the lives of the artists who find themselves in the port city taking refuge from the Depression, Lay Figures explores relationships between art and lived experience, artist and subject, artist and audience, and between margins and centre, and traces the development of a young female writer against the backdrop of the Depression and early war years in Saint John. In a story that couples bitter despair with exuberant triumphs, Elizabeth and her fellow artists make life-changing discoveries about politics and social responsibility, desire and betrayal.
NOMINATING LIBRARY COMMENTS
Mark Blagrave’s sensory language creates an immersive authentic world in which he effectively balances the depiction of a burgeoning arts community, caught between two world wars, against explorations of the artistic process. Lay Figures is impeccably written with sharp dialogue, vivid descriptions, and a masterful use of metaphor and analogy. This is a compelling read, providing a “captivating commentary on art and creation, love, lust, and betrayal, social disparity and cultural history “. (Gemma Marr, Miramichi Reader) The questions and challenges faced by Blagrave’s artists are eternal, and more vital today than ever. (R.M. Vaughan).
Saint John Free Public Library, Canada