Davis’s Barnacle Tides casts carvings by cancer patients into blue glass
By ELISSA BARNARD, Halifax Chronicle Herald, Friday, January 31, 2014
Halifax social sculptor Miro Davis holds a blue glass plate she cast from a clay carving made by a cancer patient as part of the Barnacle Tides wellness wall to be installed this spring in the patient lobby at the Cancer Care Centre in the Dickson Building, Halifax. (TIM KROCHAK/Staff)
The magic in art for Miro Davis is working with other people.
She helps people express themselves and leave their mark whether they are youth struggling with bullying, people with AIDS, educators, doctors, pregnant women, seniors, nurses or people with cancer.
The Halifax artist is in the midst of two gigantic projects: Barnacle Tides, about living with cancer, and Bloodlines, a project with the municipality and Mi’kmaq youth for the United Way.
Both involve people making drawings in clay that she is casting into glass.
Barnacle Tides, to be installed this spring in the patient lobby at the Cancer Care Centre in the Dickson Building in Halifax, is a “sculptural wellness wall creating peace, solace and health,” says Davis.
“I’m working with hundreds of patients going through cancer and finding a piece of solace in this little piece of clay. These are people who are not artists. They’re from Cape Breton, they’re from everywhere.”
The Vancouver-born NSCAD graduate, whose studies included painting, ceramics and jewelry, sits in the waiting area at the Dickson Building with her materials.
“At first, everybody says, ‘I’m not an artist. I can’t draw.’ I have to let them know it’s not about drawing, it’s about expression. People don’t even realize they have a story to tell.”
Her question to the patients at the Cancer Care Centre is: “Where is your solace?”
Images include being by the water, comical cartoon characters, children, nature, flowers, an embrace.
“I wasn’t quite prepared for the depth of emotion. Every time I look at each piece, I can remember the heart of the person,” Davis says in her Halifax studio, which is the basement of her home.
She is casting these pieces in blue glass. Each will sit at the base of a large clay barnacle that she has made. All the barnacles will go on the wall in a massive lit structure with LED light shining through the glass.
“Blue glass is like water, like pools, and has a really calming effect, and this whole story gets illuminated.”
Barnacles, she has learned, collectively create a community and are “incredibly strong.”
For Bloodlines, to be like a red, stained glass window in the shapes of a mandela, lacework and a medicine wheel, she has asked youth to talk to their family about their family history and kinship and to symbolize that on a carving in clay. It’s a way for kids to learn more about each other and to empathize. “Bullying comes from not having compassion for another.”
Two years ago, Davis worked with 250 survivors of prostate cancer to make a four-metre tie at Prostate Cancer Canada Atlantic’s resource centre in Halifax.
It was nerve-racking at first.
“They were dudes. They were not going to talk about their pain, and certainly not through art. There was so much emotion in that room, people took their walls down. It becomes an incredible connection.”
Being a “social sculptor” is rewarding. “There is so much magic in it. I find with every facilitation I do, people say, ‘I feel so good, I feel so much better.’ This type of work is finding a strong place in the medical world and healing.”
However, there is a lot of pain. “It’s heavy, it’s raw. People tell me the most gruesome or unsettling things. Sometimes I just go in my bed and cry.”
However, she says, “the human condition is amazing and I see it over and over again — what people can survive and how beautiful they are. I think that all of these people, by leaving the symbolic images, are teaching all of us.”
This project was funded by The Robert Pope Foundation.