Portraits of Recovery
Louise is always looking out for interesting faces pointing out those she sees and saying “I’d love to sculpt him” (or her). A few years ago Louise saw people standing outside on a Vancouver sidewalk just west of Burrard on 4th Ave.
Her immigrant father tells a story of finding his first work in Canada as a day labourer from an agency at this same location 50 years ago. So she thought these guys were waiting around to find work. What struck her was the character in their faces. When she approached the storefront agency she found it to be a society promoting the dignity and well-being of people with mental health issues called the Motivation Power and Achievement (MPA).
Louise wanted to practice her art and craft of capturing someones likeness in clay and make a portrait in a 3 hour sitting. So she approached the MPA asking if she would be able to set up her sculpture stand in their club area where the members play bingo, billiards and eat at a snack bar. She would pay models sitting for her and practice her art just like students do in art schools and community centres.
Well, it turns out that the process of sitting for a portrait and then having it displayed on a shelf in the MPA club seems to raise the spirit of the place. These sculpted portraits show a dignity and nobility to the subjects that improves their social status and self esteem. They are a pretty down and out group of people, most of whom are, or have been, homeless at some time but this puts them on a pedestal . Everyone there has a very high regard for Louise. She has completed about 20 portraits and has a long waiting list.
Louise has conversations with the models after they’ve had their portrait displayed for a while at the MPA. They talk about their normal childhood and early careers as steel workers, dancers, and parents. They go on to tell of the onset of mental illness, family tragedies, homelessness, medication and recovery in a new community of people with mental health issues. Each person has a very interesting, and moving story. There is often a stark contrast between their living conditions and the dignity of human form that Louise captures in their portraits. Every one is enthusiastic about their contribution to an art exhibition.