Melanie Craig-Hansford

Processing Cedar  |  City Gallery  |  January 13 – March 10, 2023

Artist Statement

During the pandemic my artistic practise led me to an investigation of the cedar trees along the shores of the Belleisle Bay in Erbs Cove and the Dutch Point Trail in Hampton. In these past years of turmoil, tragedy, and despair I was able to process all this emotionally, mentally, and spiritually by walking every day. When I remembered to remain present, I could feel the energy of the white cedar course through me. When I was with them, I felt serene and connected. I hugged them, I sat in the hollow beneath their roots, I ran my hands over their textured bark, I inhaled their aroma and marvelled at their ability to cling to the rocky shore.

It all started with a poem and a painting as a response to the isolation of the pandemic. Each painting that followed is from a photo I took on my morning walks. This body of work is thematically linked by the subject of cedar trees. During the forced isolation of the pandemic, I experienced a real shift in my artistic practise.
I became less concerned with the subject matter and more concerned with communicating the feeling I got when I was emersed in the cedar forest. The shift was a very intuitive one. Still relying on the photo as a reference, I would ponder the image and the painting would start to communicate to me how it wanted to be painted. I started to think about how I could emphasize the texture of the bark, its beautiful aroma, its perseverance, its energy, and how it fit in the larger ecosystem of New Brunswick. Most of all I wanted to share the feeling of being around these majestic trees in the landscape. 

I hope this body of work remains as a visual prayer of thanks for the wisdom and sacredness of the cedar. Many Aboriginal cultures refer to the cedar as The Tree of Life and it is an important part of protection ceremonies as a purifying herb. It is used as part of the sweat lodge ceremonies and is included in medicine bundles. 

This show is a record of me looking outward and then inward. It is a record of my desire to communicate how the landscape of New Brunswick has become such a huge part of who I am, a record of the sadness I feel at all that we have lost, and a record of all that I have learned from the natural world and my part in it. 

It all started with a poem……

Processing Cedar


On the bay
ice as thin as patience
everything is grey
the ice
the fog
the lichen covered cedar

gulls scream
themselves hoarse
deer paw
their hooves raw
crows flap
themselves spent

no need to listen
for the news from birds
town criers declare
invisible microbes
have arrived on our soil


a quarantine
seal up your houses
mark your death door
for fear spreads faster
than fleas
add the departed
to the death carts
record their names
on the bill of mortality
dip their coins in vinegar


we make masks
turn whiskey stills into vats
of assassin gel
vilify bats


forces me to stay
at the water’s edge
each day
like the last  

no need to practice
a safe distance
I am the only one
on the shore 

the world shifts
the moon has turned red
even the wind has stopped
seeking branches to break

none of us can breathe


A hummingbird
in our garage
has never experienced ceiling
is baffled by
the concept of doors
oh how can
an exhausted
be the thing
that finally breaks me.


on the shore
a cedar
I kneel before her
remove a rock beneath her root
sit in the hollow 

chainsaws in the distance
your bark coils inward
you know naught of fear
for I’ve heard your fallen cries
have watched your broken limbs
succumb to gales

you have captivated me
your lower branches
bleached titanium in the sun
like brittle bones under foot

oh cedar
teach me how to resist
the world’s propensity for rot—
how to stop this erosion
how to be still


Melanie Craig-Hansford lives in Hampton, New Brunswick.

Melanie has a Bachelor of Fine Arts (1984) and a Bachelor of Art Education (1985) from NSCAD University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. In 1982 she studied art at Fortman Studios in Florence, Italy. She taught high school for 27 years in Kingston, Ontario and retired in 2014 when she moved back home to New Brunswick.  Since moving back to the Maritimes, the landscape has been a huge part of her artistic practice. 

She spends her time now painting and writing poetry. Her first illustrated poetry collection was published this year by Chapel Street Editions in Woodstock. It is called Tonight We Sleep with the Window Open.  The poem that was a catalyst for this exhibit called Processing Cedar appears in this book as well as the ink drawings that are on display in the gallery.

In 2016 Melanie had an art exhibit called Stone by Stone at The Arts and Culture Centre of Sussex where she showed her landscape paintings with the stone sculptures of Sheila Watters.  She was part of a group show at the Arts and Culture Centre of Sussex in March of 2022. Melanie also had a show at the Grand Manan Art Gallery from June 25-July 15, 2022.   She does commission work and has taught painting, drawing and water colour workshops at The Arts and Cultural Centre of Sussex and Hooper’s Studio in Hampton. She has shown her work at many festivals and markets including Hooper’s Studio, Hampton’s Bloomin’ Artists, and The Summerville Arts Festival. She would like to acknowledge the financial support of ArtsNB, In 2020 she was awarded an Emerging Artist Grant.