Of Art and Healing … and Friendship.

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Last Friday evening I went along to the Red Poppy Gallery in Nepean to see this exhibit. “Haunted” is a retrospective of works by Kathryn Michaud, the sister of my friend, long-time colleague, and current walking and skating partner, Evelyn Michaud.

Red Poppy Gallery is an “educational gallery” and is curated by Evelyn Michaud who was the Head of Arts at John McCrae Secondary School, where I used to teach. It’s the brainchild of Evelyn and Kristen Barbour both of whom were long time colleagues of mine. And it’s housed in the school. Let me explain.
JMSS was built as part of a large community complex which also includes the Walter Baker Sports Center and a branch of the Ottawa Public Library. The idea was to give students more easy access to the community center and the library, and to give community members easy access to the school facilities. The OPL renovated a few years ago and by moving its circulation desk created a large empty area. Perfect for an exhibit space. A space where students and staff, current and former, as well as community members, could exhibit their art work. Where students had easy access to these works. And where students could learn first hand how to run a gallery and the events which might be held there. Cool idea, eh?
So on Friday I went along, as I said, to see the latest exhibit and meet the artist, Kathryn Michaud. Kathryn is a sculptor, poet, and performance artist. Her sculptures are haunting as you might expect from the title of the exhibit.
Kathryn’s sculptures are swathed in handmade garments and headdresses, and draped with ornate beading as you can see above. Everything is handmade, hand sewn, hand shaped, and meticulously meaningful down to the fact that the beads are worked in groups of seven, twenty-one and twenty-eight. See how the inside of the head of “Sadeshie” (above) is lined with silver so that the empty eyes will catch the light?  And in all of the works, I was struck by her depiction of the powerful and sometimes opposing images of strength, fragility, courage, vulnerability, power, and tenderness.
“The Farewell”
Kathryn’s sculptures seem based on the long distant past, on images of Pictish warriors and Celtic queens. The braids, tattoos, and facial paint. The coarse fabrics, the body armour. But history is not the main point here, unless it’s the artist’s very personal history. You see, Kathryn has long battled “Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.” That’s what haunts her dreams, and it’s her dreams which express themselves in her art. In the complex images of a fragile figure swathed in ornate “regalia,” a warrior tending to a swaddled infant, or a slender girl dancing with abandon on Hadrian’s Wall the symbol of the might of Rome.  According to Kathryn, these figures, the expression of her creativity, are an integral part in her ability to survive CPTSD and in her continued journey of healing.
I should say here that don’t know a lot about art. And I am definitely not an art critic. So I hope I’ve done justice to Kathryn’s art, her talent, and the amazing detail and work that has gone into each of her sculptures.
And to Ev… my friend and walking/skating partner. Whose vision and enthusiasm for the Red Poppy Gallery has not diminished even though she’s retired from teaching. As is evidenced by the hundreds of hours of volunteer time she continues to invest in the gallery and, as a result, the students of JMSS. Good job, Ev!

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19 thoughts on “Of Art and Healing … and Friendship.”

  1. This seems to me the kind of show you'd want to visit and revisit. So powerful — and such a fascinating use of clothing to evoke emotions, build layers of connotation. . .
    The gallery itself — what a marvelous project! Wonderful of your friend to give so much of your knowledge and experience to ensure that students see art appreciated in a thoughtful context. Thanks for sharing.

    1. That's a great way to put it, Frances… building layers of connotation. Wish I had said that. Ev's contribution to the school continues even though she's retired!

  2. Thanks for showing us this Sue, it is the kind of small but meaningful exhibition we would be unaware of without your blog . I'm sure John McCrea would approve of both the gallery & the exhibition . Very appropriate .
    I shall be crossing Hadrians Wall today traveling to Edinburgh for a few days & these figures will be in my mind .
    Wendy in York

  3. Those are simply amazing, and haunting. The level of detail is impressive. It must have been something to see in person, because I'm moved just looking at the photos. Popping back up to watch the video. Have a great day!

  4. Leslie in Oregon

    As one who is very close to a person who suffers from CPTSD and has been striving to heal for decades, I very much appreciate this post.

  5. Thank you for sharing this Sue. I would love to be able to attend the exhibition in person. The expressions and the attention to details are stunning and yes, haunting. The facility sounds ideal for local artists. An inspired idea by someone …there should be more places like this.

    1. Red Poppy Gallery is a great facility. Thanks for stopping by, Rosie. I know that Kathryn has been enjoying all the reader comments. So thanks for that too.

  6. Howdy! I came across your article because I have a print of art signed in 1981 by one Evelyn Michaud, and I’m trying to figure out if it’s the same person (I found this in Ottawa). Maybe she would like it back as a blast from the past? Maybe she would like to know where it has ended up after 40 years? You can email me if you want and I’ll send you more details. Thanks!

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