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Getting to know Thaddeus Holownia

Thaddeus Holownia has been documenting this region’s natural and cultural heritage with his considerable skills as a photographer for more than 40 years. His chronicles of the Tantramar Marshes, our salmon river watersheds and his own backyard have won him praise worldwide and inclusion in exhibitions in North America and Europe. He’s also been recognized for excellence in teaching and for community service, including most recently being named to the Order of New Brunswick. Saltscapes spoke with Thaddeus Holownia about art at home, Monet’s haystacks and 4-H.

Q You grew up in England and Canada. Why did your family move here?

A I immigrated to Canada when I was five. My parents were both Polish and had been displaced during the Second World War to England. They saw Canada as immigrants have forever—even now—as a place to provide a comfortable, safe lifestyle.

Q You lived in Saint John for part of your childhood.

A We lived mostly in Ottawa—I studied at the University of Windsor—but I did spend a few years going to high school in Rothesay. My father worked for the Irvings when they were building the dry dock. He was a structural engineer.

Q How did you get interested in art?

A I was very lucky that my parents were interested in art. They lived rich, cultured lives prior to the Nazi era in Poland. Art and music were very much present in the house during my youth. Art is part of the way you are and of the way you operate within the world. When you grow up in a household that is not rich monetarily but is very rich culturally, that opens your eyes.

Q How did you end up back in New Brunswick?

A We lived mostly in Ottawa—I studied at the University of Windsor—but I did spend a few years going to high school in Rothesay. My father worked for the Irvings when they were building the dry dock. He was a structural engineer.

Q You’ve raised a family here.

A I’ve got five kids. We’ve got chickens, horses, dogs, cats. We live in a rural environment by choice—I moved to Sackville, and from Sackville to little Jolicure to be in a place that has big sky and lots of space. I live rurally and try to contribute whenever I can when I’m called upon—the 4-H Club, the Pony Club.

Q What interests you about the local landscape around Sackville?

A There’s a poetry within the ruggedness of the Bay of Fundy, in the Tantramar Marshes that spoke to me. I worked on a book project entitled Dykelands that also became an exhibition and a reason to work in landscape and to use Sackville as a base for those interests.

Q In one show, a series of your work was exhibited alongside Claude Monet’s.

A The Jolicure Pond project—I shot right off my back deck. The curator drew a direct line between my observations of nature and the changing of the light in my backyard to Monet’s relationship with his backyard in his haystack paintings.

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