People In Struggle
People In Struggle
The Life and Art of Bill Stapleton
C. H. Gervais with Bill Stapleton
Text and photo selection edited by Robert Stacey
8 X 10 inches, 128 pages
94 b&w and 6 colour reproductions
DOCUMENTING THE LIFE AND WORK of one of Canada's unsung senior artists, William J. Stapleton, this book is a combination of biography and autobiography, extended interview and private studio-tour.
Described by the Toronto Star as "The People's Artist," Stapleton celebrates the dignity and independence of the human spirit, without irony but not without humour. His contribution to the international "liberation movement" has taken him to the have-not areas of the globe, ranging from Canada's northland to Central America, Spain and the Soviet Union, and from the inner-city ghetto to the Indian reservation and the Third-World refugee camp.
Asked by his biographer whether, at seventy-five, he still has "the fire" in him, Stapleton reflected, "Sure, I still get passionate about causes, about inequity and inequality, about what's wrong with our society, with the environment and with the economic system.... Look, you have to have anger, passion, indignation, love, tenderness—the whole gamut of human emotion—if you're going to be a real artist. Injustice is always with us, and one of the jobs of responsible artists is to respond to it. Art becomes an essential voice in all the chaos of our times: a tool for bearing witness, and a weapon for effecting change."
Born in Stratford, Ontario in 1916, Stapleton found his matier at age twenty while working on a survey crew in Northern Ontario. Having decided to become a professional artist and designer, he studied at the National Academy of Design and the Works Progress Administration school in New York, the Slade School of Art, London, and the Ontario College of Art, Toronto. But life, he insists, has always been his real teacher. His media vary from oils, acrylics and watercolours, to pastel, conte, charcoal, pen-and-ink and ink-wash: his message is the strong, unabashedly partisan empathy of the figurative compositions he calls "humanscapes."
Ever since witnessing the violently suppressed labour strike that took place in his home town in September 1933, he has been committed to using his art as a "tool and weapon" for the benefit of the powerless and the denunciation of the powerful. His sense of solidarity with the victims of political and economic oppression has led him to portray them and their causes through studio paintings, on-site sketches and drawings posters and film. Similarly, his first-hand exposure to the terrors of modern warfare, while serving overseas with the RCAF during World War II, affirmed his commitment to the fight against militarism and imperialism—a commitment that continued through his membership in such organizations as Veterans Against Nuclear Arms, Artnica (Artists for Nicaragua) and Arts for Peace, which he co-founded in 1982.
C.H. (Marty) Gervais
Marty Gervais was born in Windsor and grew up in Bracebridge. He received a BA from University of Guelph and an MA in creative writing from University of Windsor, where he studied under Morley Callaghan. The recipient of numerous journalism awards in his lengthy career as a journalist at The Windsor Star, and lauded for his book The Rumrunners, a history of Prohibition in Canada, Gervais has also won recognition for his creative writing. With Autobiographies he was runner-up in the Milton Acorn Memorial People's Poetry competition in 1989.