Thanks to the Alberta Foundation for the Arts and the University of Alberta Faculty of Arts, I received support and encouragement to go to Italy to visit the Digital Stone Project. Many thanks to the great Jon Isherwood and a team of excellent technicians and amazing facilities, I was able to produce a marble sculpture that I think is really strong. The 2018 version of the Digital Stone Project included 24 Artists from all over the world.
You can go to this web site and look for yourself. If you are a former student of mine, you already know about Jon Isherwood and about John Hock and you know that we are trying to make our own region of the world one that is active and inspiring for its art making energy. Many of these students have met Jon and John and gone on to make exciting things happen for themselves and for others as well. To my mind, this is how art becomes valuable. When the challenges of existing seem overwhelming, art can sometimes remind us that we are not alone in our search for more than just existing. Art and the labours of physical sculpture can save lives by pointing out something that the audience may have forgotten or been overlooking about being alive. And, at the very least, we can sometimes feel that the art speaks to us in such a way that we don't feel so alone. We may come to feel that there is at least one other person who noticed something about being alive that we too value and so we are not alone in thinking the way we do.
Tolstoy writes of a period of life where he has so despondent that the only real option seemed like suicide and he came to feel that the practical sciences only confirmed this, his search for options using the infinite and unprovable available in god presented its own problems but eventually it was exactly in the infinite and never quite comprehensible where he found the room for hope and optimism. I can speak about this faith in the incomprehensible in more tangible ways too, but it is true that Art saves communities and it saves lives, if only one at a time...that is more than enough reason for them to be important parts of every community.
Dr. William Lakey is largely responsible for me having my life. He removed congenital brith defects that were threatening to kill me in an emergency surgery when I was quite young. He did this using ground breaking technology and procedures with an open text book and a phone line to Chicago from the University of Alberta Hospital in about 1965. Years later one of his best friends told me of a lunch break the two renowned Doctors took together on a day when life in Academia seemed simply too frustrating. They got in the car together and decided that maybe they would go to the Edmonton Art Gallery, and as they drove they both were considering leaving Edmonton for opportunities that they had to take there skills back to the USA where they had gotten their training. As the conversation progressed, they arrived at the front of the gallery to find a very challenging new sculpture that they had not yet seen, and they both remarked that if this place had a vision enough to bring something like that to the people rather than more straight forward orthodoxy in art, then maybe they should stick around and see if Edmonton really was THAT exciting. They both stayed until they passed away a few years ago. I can argue that countless lives in Edmonton, including my own were saved by them choosing not to leave Edmonton. Obviously the art was not the only reason they stayed, however, I re-tell this story accurately and both Dr. Lakey and Dr. Von Borstiel served the University of Alberta and this region of the world for 50 years after that lunch trip where they we enthused by seeing challenging sophisticated art.
Eugene Delacroix said " You who know there is always something new, reveal that to others in that which they may have been overlooking." . I think that this is the challenge to all artists of all genre's and all eras, for all time. Inspire others to see liberty in things around them, let them feel less alone and encouraged to consider their potential differently than they might have been doing. Simple as that.
I hope some thing that I have put my heart into making might actually light a spark in some other human one day. If this ever happens for you, and I am still alive to hear about it, please send me a note, I will feel that the sweat and blood and commitments have been validated, but until I hear of that, I will seek to make better work with the goal that I might achieve that.