This scrapbook presentation of William D. Roach’s folk art, in keeping with the unpretentious nature of the form, is short on textual analysis but long on visual appeal. Of its 150 pages, 116 are devoted to full-colour reproductions of whimsical carvings and paintings, grouped in ‘chapters’ each beginning with the letter ‘F’: Fur, Fins, Feathers, Friends, Fun and Fresh Air, reflecting down-to-earth Maritime humour.
Newspaper clippings document Roach as an award-winning full-time artist, receiving visitors including former Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson and CTV host Heather Hiscox at his Sunset Gallery in Chéticamp, NS as well as participating in more than 50 solo or group exhibitions since 1990, including one at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC.
Starkly contrasting with the innocent joie de vivre of his work accompanied by major commercial and critical success are the dark years of his early life: his childhood marked by violence at home and bullying at school; his twenties by alcoholism and suicidal thoughts. How he overcame it, with the support of his wife, Alcoholics Anonymous and the whittling skills he’d learned from his crippled uncle at the age of four, makes for a deeper appreciation of the images, a testament to the transformative power of art.