I had the opportunity to attend an extraordinary sculpture exhibit at the Gardiner Museum last night: See Us Rise Hear Us Roar. The work is the result of an 11-week long sculpture class – a partnership between the Gardiner and the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic. A response to a previous exhibit Out of the Mud the Lotus Blooms, the exhibit was organized to promote awareness of violence against women and children. All the artists are women who have experienced violence or abuse at some point in their lives – and, for them, working in clay became part of their personal healing process. In 2013, some of these works will appear in a 10-year retrospective exhibit.
Siobhan Boyd, Gardiner Museum Programmer, and Lynn Jenkins, Director of Counselling Services at the Barbra Schlifer Clinic, spoke of the museum/clinic partnership and introduced the sculpture group’s facilitators: art therapist Suzanne Thomson and artist Susan Low-Beer (and Susan just made it in on time, through traffic from Pearson airport, to be at the exhibit). Two of the artists from a previous exhibit spoke of their positive experiences working with their sculpture group and were happy to return and see the responses in the current exhibit. One of the current artists, accompanied by a friend for moral support, read a poem: For Children Who Are Broken, by Elia Wise, and did an excellent job despite the nervousness. Another artist shared a recording of a song that has brought her inspiration: Juanita, by Shania Twain.
The exhibit was a one night only event, and guests were there by invitation and were provided with artist statements about the work. The work is powerful, beautiful and diverse in the images chosen and techniques employed. Due to the sensitive nature of the subject matter, several of the artists chose to be anonymous. I received permission from one of the artists to post photos of her piece Depiction of a Journey in this blog – and I thank her for her courage, her work and her trust. She likened the process of creating this work to a trip down into the Grand Canyon on a burrow, sure-footed creatures who know the path. As you wind down the narrow rock trail with no guard rail, you need to remember: Trust the burrow. And she takes inspiration from the Walt Whitman quote: “Re-examine all you have been told. Dismiss what insults your soul.”