In 1979 at age 19, while living and working as a freelance artist in Toronto my health was dramatically imperiled by End-Stage Renal Failure. If the term 'End-Stage' sounds ominous, it's because it was!
Without emergency medical intervention I would've been a dead man. The toxins had accumulated to such lethal levels that the team of ER doctors were shocked that I had even managed to make it into Sunnybrooke Hospital on my own two feet.
|Depiction in pencil of the 'Shribner Shunt' to initiate emergency dialysis. (10:48 am, April 4th, 1979)|
|My neighbor on the dialysis ward with my machine in the foreground, April 1979.|
Making the best of a crappy situation.
A wonderful resource person at the hospital arranged for me to take over an empty room in the hospital as a make-shift studio and even supplied me with a budget in order to outfit myself with paints and canvas to enable me to start painting again as a way of getting back on my feet to regain a sense of normalcy in my shattered life.
I decided to create a mural that I called 'Recovery I' as a salutation to what I hoped would be an eventual return to health. You might say that this mural was an 'invocation' for my own recovery from what was a shockingly horrific disease. As a small token of appreciation for the excellent medical care and life-saving intervention I received at Sunnybrooke, I decided to donate this mural to the institution. It hangs in the main lobby there to this day.
|"Recovery I" was designed and painted as an invocation for my own eventual recovery from the ravages of End-Stage Renal Failure.|
Although the onslaught and aftermath of this disease was a huge setback that caused a lot of negative impacts in my life, I can now in retrospect say that the net benefits of the whole experience far outweigh the deleterious. Although I certainly would not recommend this trial by fire to anyone, for me the experience set me on a path to self-discovery though my path as a life-long artist that I would never regret.
Sure, there have been times when I almost wished I had settled for a more financially secure career but all in all, it has been a great ride and just keeps getting better!
Inspiration or Delusion? Let History Decide.
Very soon after my eventual kidney transplant...which freed me from the exhausting routine of thrice-weekly dialysis treatments...I was a recipient of another kind: a powerful vision came to me in a vivid 'waking dream' of three triangles hovering in space. They contorted and rotated to join together to form a single design of three triangles 'within' a single triangle. Lest I sound like a total nut-job in describing this as a 'mystical experience' I will share with you the exciting development of the following days.
With the confidence of one 'inspired', I took my crude pencil sketch of my three triangles to the Archbishop of Halifax at the time, professing to him that I believed it to be a 'mystical vision' that encapsulated the mystery of the 'Trinity', which in Roman Catholic terms is the 'Father, Son and Holy Spirit'.
Much to my delight and amazement (but really, not a huge shock or surprise; I was THAT confident) the Archbishop made an executive decision on the spot and assigned the parish priest to oversee the execution of a mural in St. Mary's Basilica which I proceeded to work on with vigor!
|Applying the first few strokes on 'Trinity AD 1981' at St. Mary's Basilica in Halifax.|
After about three months I had completed the mural which I called "Trinity AD 1981" in the modest setting of the Parish Hall of the Basilica. My dream at the time was to someday be commissioned to design and paint a much larger and grander mural in the Sanctuary of a sacred space. Alas, this was not to be...until exactly 30 years later!
|The finished mural 'Trinity AD 1981' in its humble setting at the parish hall of St. Mary's Basilica.|
|My mother Shirley Gaudet stands with the Archbishop James Hayes and myself on the occasion of the unveiling.|
In my experience, one success ALWAYS leads to more success and this was a good test for that theory. Soon after the completion and unveiling of this early mural, I was recruited as a 'liturgical design apprentice' to the eminent Interior Decorator and Architect the (late) Reverend Father Toby McIvern with the Montreal design firm Desmarais and Robitaille Inc. where I worked for two very formative years.
Indeed, Fr. Toby's glowing letter of endorsement was key to my much later commission of 2011/12 to design and paint a huge, ambitious mural in the coveted 'sanctuary' of Sacred Heart Chaldean Catholic Church in Saskatoon.
|(The late) Reverend Father Toby McIvern posed for a quick pencil sketch on 11/05/85. The decorative 'doodles' in the background were rescued out of the wastepaper basket as Toby tossed them out after a chat on the phone.|
|Working high up on the scaffold on the upper right-hand side of 'March of Trinity' aka 'Trinity 2011'.|
If you want to take a closer look at the work-in-progress of this 2011 mural, check this video which pans across the entire surface and proffers some intimate views obtainable only by high-definition zoom lens, as the artwork soars to a height of almost fifty feet at the apex.
30 years after the creation of 'Trinity AD 1981' in Halifax I was honored to stand with His Excellency Roman Catholic Bishop of Saskatoon Donald Bolan and Father Sabah, parish priest of Sacred Heart Chaldean Catholic Church in Saskatoon, SK. on 03/03/2012, the day of the official unveiling ceremony of 'March of Trinity' aka 'Trinity 2011'.
Not wanting to be typecast in any way shape or form as a 'religious' artist, I have created a prodigious number of murals across Canada over the past 30 years in the secular realm. Here is a selected mural portfolio with The Urban Wall in Saskatoon to give you an idea.
In case you were wondering, I remain to this day a successful kidney transplant thanks to the 'Gift of Life' from my loving brother Steven. He is doing well after 33 years too! One of my long-term goals is to be recognized as the World's Longest Surviving Kidney Transplant Recipient and at over 33 years I am definitely in the running. Just sayin'.