Edmonton autistic artist remembered for achieving 'improbable territory' - CBC.ca - Canadanewsmedia
Connect with us


Edmonton autistic artist remembered for achieving 'improbable territory' – CBC.ca



Colleagues, family and friends are mourning the death of Matthew Wong, an Edmonton artist diagnosed with autism who was recognized internationally for his landscape paintings. 

Wong, 35, died on Oct. 2. Family and friends confirmed he died by suicide.

“I am in total shock,” said Monita Cheng, Wong’s mother.

“He’s an extremely talented person. He’s a lovely son. He’s extremely kind. He cares about people; he loves to help people,” she said. 

“He was voracious in everything that he did in life,” said Brendan Dugan, the owner of Karma, a gallery in New York City that represented Wong. 

“He accomplished more in the short time he was painting and making work than most people probably do in their whole lives,” he said. 

‘Instant recognition of his talent’ 

According to Dugan, Wong wasn’t trained as a painter; his artwork started from poetry and then translated into photography. He taught himself how to paint. 

Wong earned a bachelor of arts degree in cultural anthropology from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in 2007. In 2013, he completed a masters of fine arts in photography at City University of Hong Kong. 

Matthew Wong’s oil on canvas painting, The Space Between Trees, hangs at Karma, in New York City. (Submitted by Karma/Estate of Matthew Wong)

“Matthew was very unusual in a lot of ways, his presence was kind of uncanny,” Dugan said. 

He first met Wong through Outside, a group art show hosted by Karma on Sept. 3, 2016. 

“Once Matthew was included in this group show, there was kind of an immediate and instant recognition of his talent,” Dugan said. 

“There was always this kind of layering of symbolism and poetry, within the idea of a landscape or nature.”  

‘Improbable territory for a young artist’ 

By 35, Wong had three solo exhibitions — two in Hong Kong and one in New York City. He has one more with Karma that’s forthcoming. Wong was also featured in 13 group exhibitions and two publications. 

David Moos, the owner of David Moos Art Advisory, said he came across Wong’s work at Karma.

Moos was also the modern and contemporary curator for the Art Gallery of Ontario from 2004 to 2011. 

Wong’s mother, Monita Cheng, says he was a self-taught artist. He was autistic and diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome at 15. (Peter Evans/CBC)

“Painting is an extremely challenging medium. It’s a demanding and difficult medium today to make meaningful and relevant paintings, and I think Matthew accomplished that at the very highest level which is remarkable for a person his age,” Moos said. 

“I think he brought his life experience to bear on what is improbable territory for a young artist to to tackle.”

Moos said Wong’s paintings allow people to “step aside from our everyday realm.”

“To look to Van Gogh is almost anecdotal at this point,” he said. “It is utterly contemporary. There’s there’s a plain spoken beauty in his work that I think is genuine and earnest.” 

Mental health struggles 

Wong was born in Toronto on March 8, 1984, though he and his family moved frequently between Hong Kong and Toronto.

According to Cheng, Wong struggled with depression while growing up. 

He was diagnosed with autism as a child and, by 14, he was diagnosed with depression and prescribed anti-depressants.

A photo of Wong as a child, found in his first poetry book. (Peter Evans/CBC)

Wong began seeing a psychiatrist at four years old.

He also saw child psychologists to help him with his social skills, Cheng said, adding it was difficult for Wong to make friends because they moved often. 

By 16, doctors diagnosed Wong with Tourette syndrome, a brain condition causing people to make involuntary sounds and movements. 

“He’d try different jobs and he says it’s not possible for him because he always had problems. His interpersonal skills were very, very poor,” Cheng said. 

Wong’s paintings sit in his studio, located on 53rd Avenue and 87 Street in Edmonton. (Peter Evans/CBC)

Cheng said her son loved North America and disliked Hong Kong, but he continued to live there because collectors there supported his paintings. 

In 2016, Wong relocated to Edmonton with his parents. They lived closed to the High Level Bridge. 

“Even when we were travelling, he would have have a sketchbook, he would sit down by Starbucks, get coffee [and] he would just sketch and draw,” Cheng said. “He said he loved Edmonton.” 

It was in Edmonton that Wong met Matthew Higgs, director of White Columns, a gallery in New York City, which later featured Wong’s art. 

‘He felt that he’s very lucky’ 

Cheng said despite her son’s struggles, he knew he was “lucky.” 

“Even though he suffers a lot because of the mental issues, he felt that he’s very lucky,” she said. “I think Matthew really wanted to be recognized as a great Canadian artist.” 

“Me and my husband, we are extremely proud of our son. He had a lot of struggle, but he also has a very strong mind.

A photo of one of Wong’s paintings in his Edmonton studio. (Peter Evans/CBC)

He’s like rock solid, you know.” 

Wong’s family and colleagues are holding a memorial service at the Connelly-McKinley Funeral Home, at 100th Avenue and 114th Street  on Oct. 21  at 1 p.m. 

The Karma gallery in New York City will also host an exhibit featuring Wong’s work, planned before Wong’s death. The exhibit is called Blue and runs from Nov. 8 to Dec. 22.

A photo of one of Wong’s paintings, sitting in his Edmonton studio. (Peter Evans/CBC)

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source link

Continue Reading


arts up close: Diana Di Giacopo-Robinson – simcoe.com




Catharsis is the medium Diana Di Giacopo paints in. Behind her fastidious brushwork, exploding with colour and form, lies a story, steeped in emotional fervor. Those who dare to let her canvases speak to them, will soon hear the stories and convictions of their own lives re-emerging.

“I’m a very simple person,” says artist, Diana Di Giacopo. “I appreciate the little things and sometimes in this world people will become maybe materialistic or really career driven and they forget about these tiny little moments in life.”

The importance of la familia is embedded throughout her work. Her father, preparing home-made sausages, swaths of silk tapestries made by ancestors, a family Vespa, marbled steak, marinating oranges, and jars of preserves.

Best known for her realism, Di Giacopo works primarily in acrylics, but also dabbles in oils, graphite on paper and wood and concrete cast and clay sculpture. Painting since she was a child, she went on to graduate from the Bachelor of Fine Arts program at York University with honours in 1998. Her first exhibition was at The Well in Alliston. The Mayor attended.

In her piece, The Work of my Father’s Hands, Diana has captured one of the last visits her ill father made to her house.

The laborious process of making sausage together cemented their rich Italian heritage, combining their love of food, resilience, and proficiency into a family tradition. Di Giacopo spent her youth working at the family restaurant, Don Valentino Ristorante, in Brampton, and it is the source of inspiration for many of her unusual still life paintings.

From the Gentlemen’s Pile, is a darker story. The men’s shoes are deftly detailed, illuminating a life’s journey and at the same time pulling you into the depths of your own experience. You can’t help but wonder who these shoes belonged to, as the gravitas of your own father’s brogues sitting in the front closet rushes back. That moment, as a child, when you slipped your tiny feet into them, felt their imposing presence and suddenly understood your place in the family.

“A shoe is a very powerful symbol,” says Di Giacopo, who has now painted a whole series of women’s and men’s shoes. “It has your scent and carries your experiences in the day. You can feel the soul, the personality. Who they belong too.”

The black leather uppers in the painting are buffed to a spit-polish. These are shoes that were well cared for, yet well-worn. But you know there is a deeper story there. And as it happens, it is a sinister one, buried in an unspeakable history. The title of the piece is the giveaway. It refers to the piles of shoes belonging to the casualties from the Nazi death camps. The women’s pile. The men’s pile.

Nazis ordered their victims to remove their shoes before parading them into the gas chambers and Di Giacopo encountered these images while researching local WWII heroes for South Simcoe’s 150 Canada Day Anniversary exhibition. “The shoe pile was so evocative,” she recalls. “Your skin will crawl. It’s a travesty to see those piles of shoes.” The images compelled her to begin her shoe series, again plumbing the horrors and ennui of life.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source link

Continue Reading


Donald Trump to present Jon Voight with National Medal of the Arts – Global News




On Sunday evening, The White House announced that U.S. President Donald Trump will award the National Medal of Arts to American actor Jon Voight on Nov. 21.

The Deliverance star, along with three other recipients, will be honoured this Thursday for their contributions to the arts.

Among those that the Republican leader will acknowledge for the accolade are country icon Alison Krauss, “champion of the arts” Sharon Percy Rockefeller, and the Musicians of the United States Military.

Unlike the other award winners, however, Voight, 80, has proved himself to be one of Trump’s loudest and proudest supporters on multiple occasions in the past.

Jon Voight calls Donald Trump the ‘greatest president’ since Abraham Lincoln

Jon Voight calls Donald Trump the ‘greatest president’ since Abraham Lincoln

Not only did he attend the 2017 presidential inauguration, but he has commended Trump as the “greatest president since Abraham Lincoln.”

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: Disney+ warns subscribers of ‘outdated cultural depictions,’ prompting controversy

Following the launch of a formal impeachment inquiry into Trump, the Oscar-winning actor even took to social media to once again defend the president.

Voight, 80, posted a video to Twitter sharing his support of Trump. The two-minute, 14-second rant quickly went viral on the social media platform and garnered the star an abundance of mixed responses — some supporting his thoughts and Trump’s actions, others protesting them.

Jon Voight declares racism ‘solved’ in ‘Message to America’

Jon Voight declares racism ‘solved’ in ‘Message to America’

The White House has credited the decision to award Voight with a National Medal of Arts to his “exceptional capacity as an actor to portray deeply complex characters.”

The statement added that Voight has “given us insights into the richness of the human mind and heart” by captivating audiences over the years.

READ MORE: Jon Voight supports Donald Trump… again

This Thursday, Trump will also honour four recipients and organizations with a National Humanities Medal, including Washington, D.C.-based chef, Patrick J. O’Connell and 114-time New York Times bestselling author, James Patterson.


© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source link

Continue Reading


Art for Art’s Sake – Lee Ann DeCoteau, O’ Canada Soapworks – The Crag and Canyon




Lee Ann DeCoteau displays a variety of soap products at her O’ Canada Soapworks Ltd. store at 633 8th Street, (Main Street), in Canmore. photo by Pam Doyle/pamdoylephoto.com


Lee Ann DeCoteau combines her love of soap making with her love of music.

“They are both very creative elements of my brain,” DeCoteau said.

“Singing in the shower, I took it to a whole new level,” she joked.

DeCoteau created her company O’ Canada Soapworks on May 1, 2000 and has been at the little brown building at 633 Main Street for the past nine years.

DeCoteau is also a professional singer and choir leader. Her soap company business is bubbling, literally.

“We have a bubble machine running in the front yard of the business from March to October,” DeCoteau said. “People come up to us in the spring and ask when we will be starting to run the bubbles again. It’s a big signature of ours and the kids love it.”

DeCoteau loves soap so much that she offers 70 different kinds of it.

“I’ve been an esthetician for about 30 years and I made a lot of my own products in that time,” DeCoteau said. “Soap became a natural extension of that. Once we found we could make soap, it became my mission to re-invent the bar.”

In the beginning, she learned and experimented with ingredients and colours.

“We are always striving to enhance the quality and benefits of the product,” DeCoteau said.

It wasn’t easy starting a business in 2,000, she said.

“We survived a lot of storms, like the recession,” DeCoteau said. “At that time no one understood the value of hand made soap. Over the years I have seen consumers becoming more educated and more aware of the environment, their bodies and what is going down the drains.”

If anyone tells you soap can be made without lye, they are not making soap, she said.

Soap is a chemical reaction between lye and fat. Traditionally, lye was made from wood ash, but now it is created in a lab.

“Once it mixes with the oils and goes through a chemical reaction, (called saponification), it’s no longer the original lye,” DeCoteau said. “It’s become this new thing which we call soap.”

DeCoteau’s singing career took off when she was working in the spa on cruise ships.

“I am in a whole different world when I’m singing,” she said. “Music just elevates me, my soul and body, to a place of pure happiness. I float on these vibrations that just carry me somewhere else. Singing is like breathing for me.”

Music was always in her childhood home and her mother was a singer, so it was a very natural thing to be around growing up, she said.

“I started singing and did little sets in the bars and cabarets,” DeCoteau said. “It was a blast. But after five years on the high seas I was ready to stay on land.”

She landed in Canmore and has been involved with the Valley Winds Music Association for 20 years.

“I started singing in the choir,” DeCoteau said. “They added the Big Band and I became a vocalist. I have been co-directing the Valley Winds Choir and we are in our seventh year. The Valley Winds Big Band and Choir went to Cuba this May and paired with a couple of choirs and a band there. That band invited me to sing at the largest festival in Cuba next June.”

DeCoteau also has her own band called Fig Fusion.

“We play corporate events and dances,” DeCoteau said. “We were the first trio at the Three Sisters Bistro and the first musical band at Good Earth.”

The band now includes Marsh Kennedy on bass, Bob Bean on saxophone and clarinet, Karen Rollins on ukulele, Larry Jarret on percussion ad Steven Hussey on guitar. DeCoteau has made music DVDs with some rock and big time show numbers.

“I don’t put myself in a particular genre,” she said. “The band plays folk, jazz, country and classic rock.”

DeCoteau is also the musical director for the current Pine Tree Players presentation of Young Frankenstein.

“It’s the biggest production PTP has ever done,” DeCoteau said. “Our opening night was sold out and historically that has never happened before at the Miner’s Union Hall.”

The show continues this week with evening performances on Thursday, November 21, Nov. 22 and Nov. 23. Tickets are going fast at on eventbrite.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source link

Continue Reading

Stay up to date

Subscribe for email updates