The only way I can see it is to believe it

A great blessing of getting to know people with intellectual disabilities is the chance to glimpse their inner monologues and discover how alike we all are.

L’Arche Cape Breton’s Spring Art Show includes several abstract works by L’Arche core member Coralee MacDougall, whose remarkable Artist’s Statement, mercifully free of art-speak pretensions, offers insight into her interior life as an artist, and as a person finding her way through the world:

I can see what I’m doing. But other people can’t. My paintings take me where I want to go. They think, “she can’t be doing this right.” They think I’m doing it wrong. But I know what I am putting into the paintings, and I know the way I want it. I can work on it as much as I want. And I am doing it as I want it to be. I don’t have good eyesight, but I can see what is put in front of me. The only way I can see it, is to believe it.

Here are two of Coralee’s entries in the show, “Orange Water Swimming” and “Hope You Have a Good Birthday.”

Coralee uses “wax resist painting.” She colours paper with deeply layered wax crayons, then crumples the paper, smooths it out, and paints over it with a complimentary colour of her choosing. Then she wipes the paint off and lets it dry. The wax resists the paint, so most of it wipes off easily, except where crumpling has cracked the paper, and the paint remains. The effect is similar to batik: bright drawings with seams of paint running through.

You can see Coralee, and get a sense of her struggles, in the beautiful seven-minute film, “I am,” produced by my daughter-in-law Jenn Power.

L’Arche Cape Breton’s 2019 Spring Art Show includes painting, sculpture, pen-and-ink drawing, tile work, and weaving by more than a dozen artists. It will be up all week at The Gathering Place, 8356 Highway 105, Iron Mines, where you can view it during office hours.