Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Neil MacDonald, on the left, one of the finalists in the 2009 Ideal-Way Art Show, with his photograph of a canoeist on a lake.
When was the last time you had a gasp-of-awe moment? Maybe you were in a canoe, first thing in the morning. You were deep in thought… or possibly in a meditative state, all thoughts safely shelved for now. You turned a corner, and there it was: the dawn’s early light spilling its colours upon the water. And you gasped in awe. A transcendental moment you will never forget.
The word ‘transcendental’ is described as “being beyond ordinary or common experience, thought, or belief.”
There’s something about a transcendental moment: when you are immersed in it, everything falls away.
As I stepped into the Varley Gallery’s Eckhardt McKay House in Unionville, over the weekend, a wave of something akin to the early-morning canoeist’s discovery washed through me.
I already knew that the best 70, of more than 500 entries, in Ideal-Way.ca’s First Ever Art Contest for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities would be on display. It was the energy in the room that I wasn’t prepared for – the creative energy that drew over 1,000 visitors, and busloads of winning artists with their families, friends, and caregivers, from all across Ontario, to the hallowed halls of the Group of Seven artist, Frederick Varley's historic 1840s home/studio.
As Don Yeo, the CEO of Ideal-Way said, “we welcomed eyes which were wide with amazement and mouths agape in awe."
Mark Fitz-Gerald, our winning Artist VIP volunteer from Ottawa, told us, "I came to see my art at the Show and I left with a new family."
But something was missing. John Vicic, one of the artists, made his way to the over-sized canvas that was set up specifically for the intellectually disabled artists visiting the show. Paint whatever you want, we told them. John had stepped away from the crowd, and as he took up the brush, he entered into another place.
And that’s when the penny dropped. When an artist is in the creative moment, everything else falls away, but the Inner Editor never leaves his or her side. Its voice shadows the artist, and whispers, “Is that the best you can do?… Your last piece was much better…let’s face it, you’re losing it…”
The missing piece from this Art Exhibition was a lack of creative angst. The 'ego' was nowhere to be found. Each of these artists showed up in the creative moment, and asked no questions. As one artist said, “My art is all about freedom. I’m free when I paint.”
It was a life lesson for every person in the room. The artists were not interested in external validation. They did, however, offer encouraging words to the other artists.
Imagine, it was all about the art. Period.
I’d love it if you would share your experiences — your stories, family photos, or home videos.
What happened when you dared to let the paint fly, or you picked up the camera and captured a moment?