GETTING READY- Diana Anderson

Artistic expression mirrors healing journey

Out of the Hole: Works by Robin Byrnes at Kiwanis Gallery

A vivid new art exhibit reflecting a healing journey is now on display at the downtown branch of the Red Deer Public Library.

Presented by the Red Deer Arts Council and the Library, Out of the Hole: Works by Robin Byrnes is being shown in the Kiwanis Gallery through to Oct. 16. The exhibit’s ‘First Friday’ is set for Sept. 2 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Byrnes started designing small drawings as a way to express her feelings rather than recording her daily thoughts in a journal. Being an artist, this means of dealing with feelings of depression and anxiety seemed the natural course to take, she explains.

In January of 2010, she began drawing small ‘self-portraits’ with a Sharpie – with her eyes closed.

“I had taken a course on ‘A Painting a Day’ just to remind myself that discipline was the cranky uncle to creativity. During another course, ‘Warhol Wild’, Barbara Amos suggested some automatic drawing strategies to use to maintain that discipline when the ideas weren’t forthcoming. Just close your eyes and draw,” she explains in her artist’s statement.

It’s incredible what came from those sessions – the detail she captured without seeing what she was doing is amazing. She then coloured them with her eyes open and from there, she took the images and painted larger renditions with acrylic paints.

Today, she has an outstanding, bright and insightful collection of works that are certain to spark conversation about her tremendous journey. Colours are bold and vibrant. But there’s much more to these works than attractive shades and shapes.

“It was in response to a therapist who had wanted me to do a diary; I agreed to do a visual diary. Somedays, I did one and other days I would do five or six,” explains Byrnes, who is originally from Bethesda, Maryland but was raised in Canada.

She eventually studied at the University of Victoria.

She taught for several years and was busy raising her family, so her own artistic ventures were set aside for some time. But these days, she’s pleased to be back in the creative mode full-force.

Diana Anderson, coordinator for the Red Deer Arts Council, describes the works as almost child-like but of course reams of talent and thought have gone into each and every piece. “I think what is also interesting is the journey she has taken. It’s very unique.

“I know that when we received it at the Arts Council the jury was really thrilled with it — the whole idea and the journey she took and that she was willing to share those ideas through an exhibition.”

Anderson is also confident of the far-reaching appeal the exhibit will have due to its nature and initial inspiration.

“A lot of people have gone through rough patches, they’ve gone through depression. They may not be clinically depressed necessarily, but they know what that feeling is like. They know when they are feeling better and what that joy feels like, too.”

Meanwhile, this new exhibit is an ideal means of connecting to the public as it’s absolutely unique and so very personal. The images reflect all kinds of moods, situations and feelings and are a remarkable way for Byrnes to showcase not only her skills with the public, but her personal story as well. As she explains in her artist’s statement, there are definite elements of hope and humour surfacing throughout the pieces as well.

“Once I started painting these, I couldn’t stop,” she says with a smile. It’s obvious that the creative process in general brings her plenty of joy and fulfillment. “Painting is so sensory – you can smell it, feel it and of course see it.”

For more information, call the Red Deer Arts Council at 403-348-2787.

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