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Sheryl Salloum on The Life and Art of Mildred Valley Thornton

The LIfe and Art of Mildred Valley Thornton by Sheryl SalloumThe Life and Art of Mildred Valley Thornton by Sheryl Salloum
Mother Tongue Publishing, 2011

About The Life and Art of Mildred Valley Thornton

Book Club Buddy: What do you think readers will find most notable about this book?

Sheryl Salloum: Readers will find the art of Mildred Valley Thornton fascinating because they will discover that Emily Carr is not the only intriguing early female BC artist. Thornton was accomplished with both watercolours and oils and portraits and landscapes. The book has 100 beautifully reproduced images of her paintings as well as 18 rare and significant photographs.

Readers will also be astonished by the adventurous, confident, and passionate nature of a Canadian woman who, in the early part of the twentieth century, was ahead of her times. Mildred was an advocate for the rights and education of women and Canada’s indigenous peoples. In particular, she tried to build bridges between Canada’s aboriginal and non-aboriginal communities.

She was a loving wife, mother, and grandmother who managed to have a successful journalism career, writing for both the Vancouver Sun and the Native Voice. She was the art critic for the Vancouver Sun from 1944-1959, and an award-winning author. She was always involved with community organizations, and a person who lived to paint.

Mildred died in 1967 without having her greatest wish fulfilled: she wanted her approximately 300 First Nations portraits (on average, each portrait was completed in under an hour) housed by a Canadian museum or gallery as a historic legacy for the country. She also wanted part of the proceeds from that sale to be used for bursaries and scholarships for aboriginal youth.

Sadly, there were no interested galleries or museums at the time, but her work is now found in many leading galleries and museums and in some First Nations Collections (for example, the Squamish Nation owns and cherishes 17 of Mildred’s portraits of their ancestors).

BCB: Have you acquired any good anecdotes surrounding this book? If so, could you share one?

Sheryl Salloum: Mildred’s brushes were always busy. Her twin sons would find their mother in her home studio as they left for school and upon their return. Mildred’s son, Jack, recalls coming home one day and going upstairs in their old West End Vancouver home. All the bedroom doors were closed and the hallway was dark. He reached for the glass doorknob and quickly pulled back his hand because it was covered in blue paint. He went downstairs and asked, “Mother, why did you paint the doorknobs blue?” Mildred kept on painting and replied matter-of-factly that she had put too much blue paint on her palette and she didn’t want to waste it. “Besides,” she replied, “the doorknobs needed painting.” Some time later, Mildred’s husband came home and went upstairs to the bathroom. Suddenly, there was a bellow from upstairs. Apparently, Mildred had decided that the toilet seat should also be blue. Jack says it was one of the few times he saw his ever-patient father so exasperated.

BCB: Did researching and writing The Life and Art of Mildred Valley Thornton book teach you anything or influence your thinking in any way?

Sheryl Salloum: Researching and writing this book has made me realize that when people are ahead of their time, it can take several decades to fully appreciate and re-evaluate their contributions. Mildred’s work is now finally being seen for the historic treasure that she always wanted it to be.

BCB: What would you most like readers to tell others about this book?

Sheryl Salloum: I would like them to tell others that this book is stunning visually and makes one feel that one has entered a mini-art gallery. I would also like them to convey that Mildred’s story portrays a strong, fascinating woman who was such a nationalist that she would not sell her portraits to the international museums that wanted to purchase them. She was adamant that the work remain in Canada. In addition she recorded and celebrated BC and Canada in bold, powerful landscapes.

BCB: Can you suggest one question readers might find interesting to discuss, concerning you, your writing in general, or this book?

Sheryl Salloum: Let us forget about me and focus on Mildred: Why would Mildred, who was born in 1890, be a role model for women today?

BCB: How can readers help you promote this book?

Sheryl Salloum: Readers can help promote this book by passing on their honest appraisals to others via word of mouth, e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, or any other venue available. Readers can also ask their local high school and local library to purchase the book. Let us celebrate that BC has more than one significant early female painter.

About Sheryl Salloum

BCB: Why do you write?

Sheryl Salloum: I write because I enjoy researching a story and then weaving all the material together so it has texture and colour and is intriguing.

BCB: What is your greatest strength as a writer?

Sheryl Salloum: My greatest strength is my perseverance in uncovering as much information as possible (both documentation and the voices of various people) and then presenting that material in a way that compellingly depicts the person being written about and his or her historical context.

BCB: What quality do you most value in yourself?

Sheryl Salloum: I value my ability to engage with people from all walks of life and every age.

BCB: In addition to writing, what else are you passionate about?

Sheryl Salloum: I am passionate about my family and friends, gardening, skiing, and BC and Canadian art and history.

BCB: What are you most proud of accomplishing so far in your life?

Sheryl Salloum: I am most proud that my husband I have raised a caring, confident, thoughtful, fun-loving, and passionate daughter.

BCB: Is there any new or established author whom you feel deserves more attention, and what is it that strikes you about his or her work?

Sheryl Salloum: I think Evelyn Lau is a Canadian treasure who continues to write exquisite poetry. Her use of language is extraordinary and breath-takingly beautiful. She conveys many themes, emotions, and ideas in each poem.

Read  MORE about Sheryl Salloum’s book,  The Life and Art of Mildred Valley Thornton

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Posted by Pearl on Jul 5 2011. Filed under Author Interviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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