“I’ve got a car with a back seat filled with art supplies, welcome to my life,” grins Evie Dunville outside of Tantallon’s Bike & Bean Cafe.
Based in St. Margarets Bay, the well-travelled art therapist keeps her paper, paints, clay and collage materials at the ready; there’s always another workshop or session coming up on her calendar.
She began with a combined background of a bachelor degree from Mount Saint Vincent University’s psychology program and a BFA in metalworking and jewellry design at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. Starting in 2012, Dunville began helping people work through personal obstacles using artistic expression during her studies for art therapy certification, which she earned in 2016, beginning her Evie Dunville Art Therapy practice, found online at eviearttherapy.ca.
It’s a growing field that’s at once accessible to a wide group of people of all ages and from all backgrounds, with little or no previous creative experience required. It offers Dunville a number of different options when it comes to establishing a rapport with clients and helping them find the best combination of expression and healing.
Expression beyond words
“Using art to express can go beyond words,” explains Dunville, after settling in at a corner table in the former train station turned cafe and bike shop. “Even for someone who maybe doesn’t have the language to form around it. Maybe their trauma happened pre-verbal, so maybe they don’t have language because there wasn’t any in their development at the time that it happened.
“Or maybe there are no the words to express it because they didn’t understand what was happening to them. Sometimes emotions are really hard to talk about, so when you’re actually able to put something down on paper, there’s a sense of removal. You’re not necessarily talking about yourself, you’re talking about the art, and that can be a little bit easier.”
Dunville’s next trip outside of Halifax will take her to Cumberland County, and the shore of the Minas Basin, where Parrsboro Creative is hosting her workshop on art therapy at the Fundy Geological Museum on Saturday, April 10 from 1 to 3 p.m.
A need for accessible care
Jocelyn Li is the executive director of the non-profit arts advocacy group, which has had an overwhelming interest in the introductory workshop, billed as a means of “fostering resiliency to create balance during times of stress and crisis.”
“Clearly, there’s a need for mental health care to be accessible,” says Li from the office of Parrsboro Creative, whose programs include the Parrsboro International Plein Air Festival painting competition.
“The demographic I’m seeing is quite diverse. We have families who are interested, and people who just arrived from Ontario and have been quarantining and are interested in participating because of isolation, not really knowing what to do with themselves.”
Li — whose own artistic background is in metallurgy and blacksmithing — sees the COVID-19 pandemic as just one of many factors increasing interest in the combination of art and therapy as a way to work through mental health issues, after a year that involved a number of trauma-inducing and anxiety-causing events.
“The focus is more on the process than it is on the product. That’s not to say that you wouldn’t get some amazing product coming out of it, but emotions are not always pretty.” – Evie Dunville, registered art therapist
As a means of treatment, art therapy is adaptable to the individual, and can be kept very simple so the act of creating and expressing is more meaningful and important than whatever the end creation turns out to be.
“The focus is more on the process than it is on the product,” says Dunville, who prefers to work with easy-to-use watercolours or pastels, or reshapable clay, with her clients. “That’s not to say that you wouldn’t get some amazing product coming out of it, but emotions are not always pretty.
“Sometimes, part of the process involves destroying it, in some way. Because that act can actually help with the emotional release. When you’re more focused on the process and less on the product, you’re not as worried about the materials that you’re putting into it.”
The adaptability of art therapy
Dunville’s practice ranges from what she calls “art-as-therapy” — which can be therapeutic and cathartic as participants learn to become more in touch with themselves — to something more focused and involved like art psychotherapy for individuals who have more complex diagnoses or are in the mental health system.
Besides having her training and a carful of art supplies, she also has to be mentally prepared for what a session can bring when she’s working with individuals in a practice that frequently takes her beyond Halifax to the Annapolis Valley, the South Shore. Or Parrsboro, where she’ll also meet with high school students and seniors who’ve been coping with isolation over the past year.
“They can get pretty heavy, when people are talking about what’s going on for them, once they get to a level of comfort where that’s what’s happening,” says Dunville. “So there have been sessions that have been really fun and light, because that’s what the client needs at that time, but sometimes they can be more emotional and need that kind of support.
“Even in group settings sometimes, there’s that emotional support of being witnessed and seen by a group of people who are in some way connected … you’re there for a similar reason so that ‘You’re not alone’ situation can come out of that as well.”
Raising the profile
Since she began her practice five years ago, Dunville has helped raise the profile of an approach to mental health treatment that she says is still relatively unknown on the East Coast and needs to be understood as a valuable tool in achieving breakthroughs and processing emotions in ways that are both rigourous and rewarding.
And rewarding for the therapist as well. When asked what she’s learned over the past several years of pursuing and practicing her chosen field, she is most emphatic.
“Everything,” says Dunville with a smile. “It keeps me humble. I am definitely trained, but I don’t think I’ll ever come to that point where I feel like an expert. I have an understanding of what things mean, but I’ve learned from years of working with clients never to assume where someone’s coming from.
“Just because one thing is going on, it doesn’t mean there aren’t a whole lot of other things happening for them. It’s definitely made me a more empathetic human being, and I feel like I’m constantly learning and growing.”
Public art, top floor of Kelowna's One Water Street tower revealed – Summerland Review – Summerland Review
Before showing off the top floor of the tallest building in Kelowna, a 27-foot public art display outside of the One Water Street towers was also unveiled on Wednesday (Sept. 22).
The cast aluminum sculpture named “Ursa” — which stands 30 feet above the ground — was created by Toronto-based artist Pierre Poussin. The abstract, ribbon-like sculpture is a bold outline of a grizzly bear, which Poussin said is a homage to Kelowna’s name, kiʔláwnaʔ, an Okanagan word that translates to male grizzly bear.
“The grizzly bear plays a significant role in the creation stories of the Syilx and Okanagan people, symbolizing strength, power and courage,” said Poussin. “In my conceptualization of Ursa, I wanted to create a sculpture that honours, celebrates and symbolizes the majestic beauty and significance of the grizzly bear.”
The $300,000 sculpture consists of five sections, and Possin said it took about five days to create its design. He went back and forth with fabricator Michael Bilyk of Lafontaine Iron Werks for a month to tweak the outline. It took about six months for the sculpture to come to life, with the finishing touches coming earlier this month.
Ursa’s curves, he added, parallel the curves of Lake Okanagan.
“What is your experience when you look at this? Do you see the bear? Did it take you a while to see the bear? Because that was the goal, to take you a little bit of time to see the bear,” he said.
Mayor Colin Basran said that public art is a vital part of building a vibrant community.
“Arts and culture is so important — maybe more important than it’s ever been, in light of coming out of this pandemic. Recognizing that we need to be kinder, more understanding of each other and our backgrounds, and really just supporting one another,” said Basran.
“A great way to do that is through arts and culture.”
He commented on the site of the One Water Street east and west towers, saying that the former — which was completed this past summer — has lived up to its expectations.
“I really think that what (North American Development Group) created here is something special. I want to thank you for your investment in our community,” he said. “I think that that investment is again another example of the great things that are happening in our community.”
All but one of the units in the tower have been sold, with the remaining unit being a penthouse worth $12 million located on the building’s 36th floor.
Henry Bereznicki, the managing partner of North American Development Group, said that event was a proud day for the development team, highlighting that over 500 people call One Water Street home.
“One Water Street is located at the north end of the arts district. We thought the best way to honour the city of Kelowna and its residents was to commission and present this piece of public art to the residents of Kelowna,” said Bereznicki.
The art and torture of the empire – Al Jazeera English
Who remembers Abu Ghraib? Why should we remember Abu Ghraib?
Abu Ghraib represents an era of imperial conquest that began in 2003 in Iraq and before that in 2001 in Afghanistan. With its forces now out of Afghanistan, the United States has no reason to remember Abu Ghraib. But the world at the mercy of the whims of this dysfunctional empire does.
Abu Ghraib was a prison complex that took the name of the city near Baghdad where it was built.
For years, Saddam Hussein used it to unlawfully imprison, torture, maim and murder dissidents and political opponents. Then the US took it over to do more of the same.
For people who have been raped, whose bones have been broken and whose souls have been crushed there, it made no difference whether their ordeal was ordered and approved by Saddam Hussein or George W Bush.
But at least Saddam Hussein never pretended to be the duly elected president of a democracy. With George W Bush and his ilk, however, the world had to endure endless denials, and tiresome lectures about “American values”.
‘The United States does not torture’
In 2004, three years into the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, a number of dreadful photographs surfaced that showed members of the US military, security, and intelligence forces physically, mentally, and sexually torturing Iraqi and other inmates not just in Abu Ghraib, but also in Guantanamo Bay and other similar locations in Afghanistan.
These photos the American torturers took of themselves and their victims to send to their friends and families in order to boast of the terror they had been unleashing on Arabs and Muslims soon became iconic – emblematic of an immoral decadence that did not quite sit with the centuries-old propaganda that the US is the “shining city upon the hill”.
Americans were torturing people, maiming and murdering them, forcing them into deranged sexual acts. It was ugly. How could these people do such things?
Soon the global media began spreading these pictures to the point of numbing our senses. Existential questions emerged. The depth of the depravity of the people who did these things to other human beings soon escaped any meaningful registers.
Names such as Specialist Charles Graner, PFC Lynndie England, or Brigadier General Janis Karpinski became synonymous with the horror of Abu Ghraib torture chambers, but names like George W Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld remained respected and honoured in “the land of the free and the home of the brave”. Americans soon lost track of these names. Their amnesia eventually led to the election of Donald Trump. Thus, 9/11 became a pathway to 1/6 – the day the US Capitol was invaded and ransacked by the militant white supremacist cult of Trump.
‘The Art of Torture?’
Soon after their publication, a number of artists began to look at these horrid pictures with a different set of eyes, perhaps to enable us to see their horrors better. But did we really need to see those horrors better? Would we not be better off looking at the barbarity of the raw evidence itself?
In a series he called Oh Boy! Oh Boy!, Swiss visual artist Daniele Buetti transformed these photographs into stained-glass mosaics. They looked disturbingly familiar, uncannily beautiful. People who viewed them were put in an odd position: peeping into American torture chambers through a “lovely looking glass”. Were we supposed to be horrified at their beauty or enamoured by their terror?
There was something deeply disturbing about this rush to put an aesthetic turn on torture. I remember my immediate reaction was that was too soon, too early, that these pictures should remain decidedly undecipherable for a while. Artists were in too much of a rush, perhaps out of a basic human instinct of visceral reaction, to decipher them, read them, paint them, interpret them, incorporate them into their own distinct visual vocabularies.
Perhaps the most widely known artistic renditions of the torture chambers of Abu Ghraib were by the Colombian figurative artist and sculptor, Fernando Botero, who in a series of commanding visual renditions of those pictures made their terror look like something people would pay to buy and hang in museums, art galleries, art festivals, crowded Biennales. The frightful facts of what had happened in Abu Ghraib had been registered in a number of crude snapshots sent to friends and family as “souvenirs,” and now widely aestheticised to be consumed by festival curators and art galleries and their customers.
There was something obscene about this whole spectacle. What about the screams of a solitary human being at the mercy of an American torturer? What happened to that cry from the depth of human suffering? In the dark dungeons of what subterranean history did that cry get lost?
Art historians like Helena Guzik began researching the subject of art and torture further back in history and, in learned essays like, Visual Forms, Visceral Themes: Understanding Bodies, Pain, and Torture in Renaissance Art (2014), explored “the implications of Renaissance philosophies surrounding the human body in the context of pain and particularly the physical suffering endured during torture.”
The work of an American artist, Susan Crile, came close to exploring those pictures without rendering them into spaces of faded and fractured abstractions. But still when her work was reviewed in the New York Times, the reviewer coyly said she “hesitate[d] to use the word lyrical”.
Lyrical? Really – depictions of torture?
There remained something deeply familiar about these pictures American torturers took of their Iraqi inmates – they looked like those white racist murderers took of their victims when they lynched them, hanging them from a tree. “Strange Fruit”, the legendary jazz singer Billie Holiday called them in an iconic song. The trees bearing those fruits had been planted in Iraq by the selfsame racist thuggery that had terrorised the South, and which had now gone East.
Art of Resistance
Iraqi artists were of course not sitting idly by in face of the US invasion and destruction of their homeland or the Abu Ghraib atrocities, of which they had memories that went further back from Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld to Saddam Hussein himself.
“It is our duty as artists to feel what our countrymen are feeling and suffering,” Qasim Alsabti was quoted as saying in 2004 when he and 24 other Iraqi artists produced a “series of sculptures, paintings, and installations depicting the horrors of Abu Ghraib at the Hewar Art Gallery in the Wazerieh district of central Baghdad.”
More recently, in 2019, the works of a group of artists from the US, Iraq, and Kuwait were curated in a major exhibition at MoMA PS1, for a reflection back on the horrors their people had experienced at a time when, as a review in the New York Times put it, people had no interest in remembering. Theater of Operations: The Gulf Wars 1991-2011 was barely noticed by the public at large, despite the fact that there were a few positive reviews of it in major media outlets.
Today you would scarcely find any news item in the US or Europe critically thinking about Abu Ghraib. They have no reason to do so. To the contrary, imperial cultures thrive on their intentional amnesia. History means nothing to empires, except for the delusional mythologies they keep feeding themselves.
There is, therefore, a direct link between the rush to aestheticise and exhibit the horrors of Abu Ghraib and the sudden disappearance of a troubling memory that should have remained indecipherable and troubling for a much longer time. But forgetfulness is precisely how this memoryless empire best survives, by least caring about the trail of terror and destruction it leaves behind as it wages its endless “war on terror”- now its paramount ideology of world domination, at a time when in that very world there is very little left to dominate.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.
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