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Verse by the Side of the Road

Verse by the Side of the Road is composed of a group of artworks that were located on and in proximity to Highway 20 in Quebec. Individual works consisted of a series of signs that are sequenced to communicate a verse. The verses appeared in three languages, Abenaki, French and English.

This artwork references historic advertising signs that were placed along highways in both the United States and Canada by the Burma-Shave Company from the late 1920s to the 1960s. While advertising shaving cream, the signs often provided witty civic messages. For example, “Don’t lose/Your head/To gain a minute/You need your head/Your brains are in it/Burma-Shave”.

For Verse by the Side of the Road I wrote three verses in which I attempted to capture the spirit and apply the rhetorical approach of the initial signs. The verses question the idea that the area between Montreal and Quebec City is “empty space.” Through the use of languages that are of historic significance in this region, they are also intended to speak to cultural and political issues. Significantly, this “space” is the historic territory of the Abenaki First Nation.

Verse by the Side of the Road was featured in the exhibition Truck Stop, an initiative of Centre Clarke/Montreal and L’Oeil de Poisson/Quebec City. The two centres came together to select a number of artist projects that were located on or in proximity to Highway 20 – the major transportation route between the two cities. The exhibition took place in 2017 from June 17 to August 20. More information on this initiative can be found at https://truck-stop.ca

Verses were translated into Abenaki by Monique Nolett-Ille and into French by Sherry Simon. This work was made with the support and collaboration of Mathieu O’Bomsawin, Director General of the Musée Abenaki, and Daniel Nolett, General Manager of the Abenakis Band Council and with the assistance of Anil Ragubance.

Verses