Art & Memory: A Woman’s Journey Through Her Art

by  JUDE CAMPBELL

Therese Liberte, left, and daughter Helene Letnick combine their talents for an art exhibit beginning Wednesday at the French cultutal Centre.
As her mother withdraws into her own world tainted by Alzheimer’s, artist Helene Letnick has found a way to reveal herself in vivid colour.
For much of her life, Letnick appreciated art in many forms, but was never tempted to explore her inner artist.
But a chance discovery that yielded numerous drawings done by her mother, Therese Liberte, served to spark inspiration within her.
“Finding myself surrounded by drawings that my mother did years and years ago, surrounded by her memories, was a profound moment and a catalyst,” Letnick said.
“I would sit for hours in her condo, sorting through all of her memories, and it was like a window opening up to the past.”
Letnick found portraits of women from decades past, paintings and sketches of daily scenes, a scene and commemoration of the 300th anniversary of old Montreal, and oil paintings from later years.
“It was fascinating to look at them, these pieces of my mother’s life, all tied up in bundles. And as she was slipping away, and she stopped painting, it was then that I took it up,” she added.
Her own art began in 2000, and has culminated in a showing of her works, along with much of her mother’s work and memorabilia, titled Retrospective Mother Daughter: A Woman’s Journey.
It will include a glimpse of a life through the years of a young woman who on paper expressed the joys and sorrows of her time, and detailed it through her passion of drawing.
“Art was her passion,” Letnick said. “She often said that she was born with a pencil in her hand.
“She spent time by herself. A loner, sort of. Art brought her comfort, art was her friend.”
In collecting and displaying the many works of art, Letnick fused both her own and her mother’s worlds with photographs, personal letters and drawings.
One particular work, called A Garden of Memories, combines photographs, pictures of flowers, and bits and pieces of mementos which Letnick then cut out, coloured and fused together with gel.
Recalling her mother’s work, Letnick said “she worked with all kinds of mediums. She started using just ordinary pencil crayons, then went on to use charcoal, pastels, ink, watercolours and oils.”
In sifting through the works of art, she found the portraits of women showed “the changes through the decades through the style of hair and clothing.”
And although it is difficult to see Alzheimer’s take bits and pieces of her mother away, Letnick can still touch her and celebrate who she was before the onset of disease.
“It’s kind of neat that she still has art in her life through what I am doing,” she said. “I know she is slowly shrinking away, but she still becomes alive when she looks at my works, her eyes sparkle and she will make comments about the piece.”
Letnick’s own art takes many forms, as she works with mixed media, many different textures, acrylics and oil, and has an affinity for vivid abstracts.
“There are some 50 pieces in total in the show. Because it so much a combination of my art and my mother’s, it is very personal and has a lot of emotion in it,” she added. “I’ve had my work displayed in other shows, but this is the first one that is entirely mine.”


April 4th – 19th, 2012

”Retrospective Mother Daughter
A woman’s journey through her art.”
  at the Centre Culturel Francophone
   702 Bernard avenue (corner of Richter)
Monday to Friday 10 am – 4 pm
closed 1 – 1:30 pm
(closed April 6th and 9th for Easter)
Free Admission
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