WORDS BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
PHOTOS BY SUZETTE BROSS
Next May, the focus of the world will be on Murray Bay, Québec, as the G7 world leaders, press corps, and attachés descend by the thousands on the little-known Gilded Age summer resort, nestled on the banks of the St. Lawrence River.
Motorcades will whirl by the golf course where President William Howard Taft, United States Senators, and Supreme Court Justices once teed off with social arbiters and authors. Villas with wide piazzas will peak out from behind ancient Lombardy poplars as cars pass along the legendary Boulevard des Falaises, where Tiffanys, Vanderbilts, and Sedgwicks played.
But for now, life in Murray Bay for its summer visitors centers, as it has for 150 years, on hiking, fishing, golfing, gardening, exploring, and just breathing deeply—President Taft described the air here as “intoxicating as champagne, yet without the hangover.”
No one makes the most of her Murray Bay days than sculptress and gardener Jocelyne H. Turcotte, who recently invited us to her studio.
Her gardens are abundant, the former farmhouse elegant and sensitive in its restoration, and her marble sculptures found across the landscape testify to her talent. As with most Murray Bay homes, its name captures a most appealing quality. Clos des Lupins speaks of the fields filled with purple, yellow and pink lupine in spring, inviting guests down to the bluff to see a most spectacular view of the St. Lawrence. No one could be a better spokesperson for leading a rigorous life than Jocelyne.
“My days are pleasingly the same here. Up early to work in my garden, then to my studio to work for several hours, then a swim in my pool and perhaps a glass of wine with Michael.”
Passionate was the word three generations of recent visitors used to describe Jocelyne, seeing her work with both Italian and Canadian marble and perennials of soft lavenders and coral. Her passion for sculpting began when she was an art student in Montreal.
“I was in painting class and kept hearing loud buzzing and drilling from the studio next door. My teacher asked if it was interrupting me, and I said it was calling me. I left all my painting equipment behind, and the sculpture teacher said, “Get started,” when I walked through the door, and I have never stopped.”
Jocelyne often begins a piece with no idea of what it will become. A piece of alabaster from the Magadelan Islands outside her studio is a case in point. She can spend weeks looking at a stone: walking around it, viewing it in different lights, and studying the veins until suddenly a form appears.
Her passion for discovery and texture will then take over, and the long process of lifting the form from the block begins. Interestingly, the meaning or message of the piece may not always reveal itself to her until it is almost completed, but the message is always one of gentleness and love—a contrast to the hard marble from which it is chiseled.
Tools in her studio range from major drills and heavy-duty cutting discs to diamond drilling bits given to her by her dentist.
As you enter her studio, you see a lovely sculpture of her granddaughter Stephanie, now 21, holding a bouquet of flowers in her apron. She looks up expectantly for birds to appear. Around the corner is the head of a grandson Nicolas, also now 17. It is made of clay covered in plaster. Her intention was to cast it in bronze, but it so captured the look and spirit of Nicolas, that she decided to stop there.
Her most recent work depicts a bird with intricately carved feathers, made out of African wonderstone, which is somewhere between the hardness of alabaster and marble. Earlier that day, she and Nicholas brought in seven large stones from her bluff to be considered for the base of the statue. The bird will appear in an exposition next year.
Her shows in Montreal and other cities across Québec have been greatly praised, but her works take on a new meaning in her garden. Particularly compelling are two recent sculptures facing one another in the perennial garden.
A fantastical bird draped in a flowing cape and carved from a block of Danby marble, purchased by Jocelyne in Vermont, is dedicated to her father.
“My father was a remarkable man, who, among many interests, loved astronomy. He was always telling us about the stars and to look up to feel their magic.
“He frequently visited my studio. Shortly before his death at 98, he gave me a drawing and said, ‘Do what you want to with this.’ After about seven years, I pulled the drawing out of a drawer and looked at it again. I said: ‘Voila.’ Thank you for telling me to do this!
“He was always interested in the afterlife and looking to the future. It gives me great happiness to capture his wishes. It is called ‘Le Messager.'”
Jocelyne’s soul and passion are deeply embedded in her work, whether through her sculpture or in her garden, and they are clearly transmitted to all of us fortunate enough to see what she creates.