A place to 'unlock the mind’s grey penitentiaries'
“Here is a cedar key of quiet/ To unlock the mind’s grey penitentiaries.” The poet Earle Birney’s description of Lieben, the 10-acre artists’ colony on Eagle Cliff Road owned by his friends Einar and Muriel Neilson, is an evocative reminder of what the place meant to those who lived visited, and worked there.
Einar purchased the land on Bowen Island in 1941 and for years worked to create a dwelling place there, splitting shingles for the walls and constructing furniture from driftwood and cedar logs. In 1947, he married Muriel and together they turned Lieben into a sanctuary for writers, artists and other members of the local creative community. Writers including Eric Nicol, Malcolm Lowry, and Earle Birney, and artists such as Jack Shadbolt and Lemoine FitzGerald, found peace, inspiration and the space to work at Lieben.
This summer, the memory of Lieben will be kept alive at the Bowen Island Museum and Archives in the exhibit Lieben: An Artistic Oasis on Bowen. Artifacts from the house – handmade furniture, carvings, ceramics – will be displayed alongside images of Lieben in its heyday, original paintings, and the Lieben guest book with its signatures, sketches, and poems by the sanctuary’s many visitors.
The exhibit opens on Sunday, June 24, coinciding with the Bowen Island Museum and Archives’ AGM, which will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. On the same evening, the Bowen Island Arts Council will be hosting a lecture on Lieben by Bowen Island writer, Andrea Verwey. The Power of Lieben: Myths, Truths, and Loves, will begin at 7 p.m. at the Gallery at Artisan Square. Attendees at the lecture, along with all other Bowen residents and visitors, are invited to enrich their understanding of Lieben and of Bowen’s history by exploring the exhibition at the Bowen Island Museum and Archives.
Lieben: An Artistic Oasis on Bowen runs from June 24 through the summer.