Written by Artist Jeff Stackhouse

“Hear and See” is Abbotsford’s first Community Art Showcase at The Reach Gallery and Museum. It was created to focus the spotlight on Mental Health and ways to cope with mental illness.  20% of Canadians have a mental illness but because of social stigma many suffer alone.  Some also live with developmental disabilities or brain injuries. No matter which issues we all face in life, this show is a good example to use abilities as the groundwork to get people talking.

The show opened to great fanfare for Mental Health Week 2018 and is on until Sunday May 6th at 5pm.  Opening night saw over 500 guests enjoy the show which included artist meet and greets, food and wine.

In this unprecedented show as 14 artists were paired with 14 poets. The artists first read the poem and used their imagination to create a painting or visual representation based on the poetry selected.

I was lucky enough to be one of the artists hand selected to display my newest painting titled “The Stranger” in this innovative exhibition. Michael Linburg ‘s poem of the same name was given to me months before I started the final preparation for the painting. I created 12 different variations before finally settling on what you see in the gallery today. I wanted a suitable representation of the poem while letting my own personal style not be limited by the poem. The process was very challenging but also extremely rewarding. So far the feedback has been wonderful as people see the work and start to have conversations about what it means to be a stranger living in your own body.

In the painting (above) the seagull comforts the individual dealing with dual personality disorder or schizophrenia. They may also be dealing with anxiety, depression or be dealing with developmental or physical disabilities. The poem echoes the painting’s visual aspects by giving the painting a more defined vision through text such as “waves of delusions are washing over me” and “I realize the stranger is me”. These are very poignant words for individuals living with mental illness. The courage to describe these situations creates dialogue that sheds light on mental suffering in hopes of removing the stigma most people suffering with mental illness or disability face daily.

Overall, the show features meaningful and powerful work by all 14 artists and poets and is being described as the not-to-be-missed art show of the year.

I would also like to extend a warm invitation to come join me and the other poets and artists as they share their personal experiences live in person on Thursday May 3rd at 7pm sharp.  The artists and poets will all be there to share and give new dramatic insight into every poem and work of art.

Come. Hear and See.


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