Chris Boyne’s inspiration anchored in family history 

By Philip Moscovitch

Magnifying glass

Second-year MFA student Chris Boyne has always felt a special connection with his maternal grandfather, Earl Myers. That connection lies at the heart of the work the 24-year-old is creating in preparation for his thesis.

“Last year I built a machinist’s chest,” says Boyne, whose family hails from Nova Scotia. “As I was measuring, scribbling calculations all over wooden planks, sharpening a carpenter’s pencil – every action took me back to Earl. I think a lot of who I am subconsciously comes from him. This project is an investigation of his life, with a subtext of how it relates to my life.”

Myers died when Boyne was just 10. But Boyne remembers him as a “resourceful and practical man.” He was a home builder with a keen eye for detail. He also built most of his own furniture, and much of that in Boyne’s home – including the dresser that stood in his childhood bedroom. Boyne feels his own passion for working with his hands (he rebuilt a car to make it roadworthy before his 16th birthday) is a direct link to his grandfather.

Chris Boyne’s grandfather built this house on Old Ferry Road, Dartmouth, N.S., in the 40s and lived in it until the 80s. Magnifying glass

Chris Boyne’s grandfather built this house on Old Ferry Road, Dartmouth, N.S., in the 40s and lived in it until the 80s.

So, with the patience of an archeologist and the sensibility of a collector, Boyne set off in search of Myers. He’s photographed every house he knows of that Myers built. He’s combed through archives to uncover the hidden family story of Myers’ two manslaughter trials, for shooting a hunting companion during the 50s (he was eventually acquitted). He spent months tracking down eight plastic golden anchors of the type that adorned Myers’ favourite brand of rum, and that he displayed in his workshop. And now he’s trying to buy the grill from a 1953 Ford pickup, because that’s the first truck his grandfather owned.

“My approach to this project is exactly how I built with Lego as a child. I would decide to build something – say a tugboat – and I would spend hours and hours looking through boxes for anything that would be remotely useful. I feel completely relaxed about not knowing what it’s going to look like. I’m building it and I’m confident it will all come together.” he says.

“At this point, I think the work will be an installation-based piece. The anchors may be displayed in a case on a plinth, like some kind of fossil. I might build three-dimensional models of some of the houses Earl built. I think it will have a museum-like quality – like you would go see a museum exhibition about ancient Egypt. Except you’re going to see one about Earl Myers.”

Apart from his personal connection, Boyne says he admires Myers’ practical side. “He would think, why spend $35 buying a chest of drawers when you could just build one for the family with $8 worth of material? I feel that’s missing in society, but also in the art world – there’s not much emphasis on the practical.”


Concordia University