Stories Behind the Work

Death of the Innocent

In 2006/7, along with three other visual artists, I started to paint “The Healing Divas”. These four musicians, singers, dancers, and drummers came to my studio every other week for about 18 months to rehearse. As they moved, I painted large canvases using mixed media. From those sessions I took away paintings, sketches, photos and my head filled with action and colour. A year later we mounted  a wonderful exhibition in a Toronto public gallery with The Healing Divas performing at the opening. One week later Ildiko, one of our talented, vivacious models, suddenly died. I couldn’t let go. Here was this living young goddess gone. I started to paint her and what you see is the result. It was a two year process.

  • My thanks to Paula Forde and Sharon Ruttonsha for access to their studio photos of Ildiko.

Death of the Innocent #2
Death of the Innocent #1

The Children of War

I was living in the safety of Canada during the 38 year war in Northern Ireland. The war was often called “The Troubles,” but it was more than the romanticized “Troubles” – it was war with all the atrocities that go with war. In addition, it was headlines in all the news media, night and day. The struggle was between the Christian populations of Roman Catholics and Protestants.

For economic reasons and because of the death of my grandmother, I left Ireland in 1954. Grannie was the glue that had held the family together and with her passing her four remaining children split up and made new homes across the world. My Uncle Horatio stayed in Ireland with his family while I went to England with my parents and the rest of the family went to Canada. Fourteen years later I followed them there.

In Canada, I read the newspapers and watched the atrocities and bigotry in the news media. It was for me gutwrenchingly painful. I tried to understand my feelings. Feelings of someone born and educated in Northern Ireland and with only stories about the “troubles” in the 30’s and mostly romanticized. I grew increasingly upset and confused.   I started having nightmares.  On the edge of sleep they would come and I would rush to my studio and capture the images on whatever materials I could find. Then, to my horror, my whole experience of the Second World War started to emerge, brought about by the images of the destruction and deaths again in Northern Ireland. What a job it was to work all of that out . For me it was through painting and drawing and oh yes … Therapy.

  • Note: The painting entitled “On the Edge of Sleep”, which includes “Hanging dolls”, shocked me for even being able to put these visceral images on paper. I chanced on an article in the Toronto Globe and Mail about a man living in Belgrade during the heavy bombing there. He went into his back garden and found his son beating his doll against a tree. The boy was crying helplessly with anger caused by the continual bombing every night.

On the Edge of Sleep

On the Edge of Sleep

The Healing Divas

The images and my work at this point were very influenced by Hans Hofmann, Claude Fauchere (saw his work in Marseille) and Wolf Kahn.

I have had a strong desire to go abstract for some years but time and time I get pulled back to the psychology of the figure. With the Once Around The Sun art collective, I painted and drew The Healing Divas, a female group of musicians, singers, drummers and dancers. The Healing Divas came to my studio twice a month to rehearse. Glorious they were in their floating gowns and at last my work went abstract, but I needed the figure as a source to go there.

Woman Talking with Herself and abstract
Woman Talking to Herself and abstract