by Scott Hayes
After spending a year as the artist in residence with the Friends of the University of Alberta Hospital, Brad Necyk is bringing a new exhibit to the facility’s McMullen Gallery to show what he developed in the process.
The intermedia artist set his focus on people on both sides of the organ transplant system. Without really knowing what to expect when he first entered, he now reveals that it was an experience unlike any other, finding it difficult to even put the right word to what it was like talking with people who had someone else’s organs in their bodies. He also talked with relatives of the people who gave their organs after the end of their lives.
“It’s been a really, really great experience. I got to meet a lot of donor families. You get a very intimate, intense experience with that because they’ve lost somebody.”
The program was the first of its kind at the UAH and it allowed him a lot of time to spend on its Transplant Ward. There, he met and talked with those who were still in the early days after receiving a transplanted organ, their bodies still coping from surgery and their physiologies newly registering anti-rejection drugs coursing through their circulatory systems.
“It was just unbelievable to meet these people that had just gotten this intense surgery and have a new organ placed in their body and then they’re just revitalized and brought back to life. It’s very, very cool.”
Necyk has a history with idiosyncratic and indeed peculiar computer-manipulated images, obtuse sculptures, very personal photographs and other forms of art. He has explored “medicine-based art” with previous photographic series of medicine cabinets and others that delve into psychiatric issues.
He originally thought that he might combine some personal narratives from the recipients themselves while exploring the pharmacologies involved with the drugs that are meant to fight one’s own defense mechanisms against specific foreign agents in order for the larger whole of the person to survive. Of course, there’s a whole range of body morphology morphing that could have been examined and dissected artistically, so to speak. Things didn’t go exactly to plan.
“Immediately when I got in, everything got slipped up. The medicines were too complicated to try to reason and systematize in any way. The narratives were so different than anything that I’ve ever done before. By working with these people, I find that my work has gotten simpler. A lot of my work is so complicated and when I talk about it, half the time I can barely make sense. By hearing these stories, my work has become more intuitive. You just experience it. It’s a lot calmer. It shifted things a lot for me.”
Here, he focuses his unique perspective on things at others. The exhibit features two sculptures of small rooms meant to represent the circumstances of one person from northern Alberta who lives with a dog. The room is where he spends all of his time waiting to hear about his medical results to see where he is on the list for a future transplantation. One can only imagine the thoughts and feelings of one waiting for such a salvation in such a remote psychological space.
“The show is called Retreat. It’s based on a lot of medical history where people go to the mountains for retreats for tuberculosis and things like that,” the artist continued, explained that he romanticized the concept since this individual is a poet.
“I was thinking of him up there alone with his dog, writing this poetry. The sculpture is about these quiet spaces of healing and waiting and artistic production.”
On the walls of these two rooms are numerous of the artist’s drawings, each representing some facet of life as an organ donor or recipient. One such drawing shows the faces of a couple kissing, the phrase “One of us will die first” lingering ominously underneath.
He previously exhibited a thematically similar show called Of Other Spaces at the McMullen at the beginning of his artist’s residency. Retreat is the companion piece to bookend that show. In addition to this art exhibit, he will also be showing a short film called Alberta at the Metro Cinema on April 19.
Retreat <br />Art by Brad Necyk<br />Exhibit runs until Sun., May 1. <br />A closing reception with artist talk will take place on May 1 from 2 to 4 p.m.<br />The McMullen Gallery is located in the U of A Hospital at 8440 112 St. in Edmonton.<br />More information can be found by calling 780-407-8428 or visiting www.friendsofuah.org/mcmullen-gallery-shows.