The Arthritis NewsletterSpring 2014
Art and Arthritis: Shards, Bone DeepBy Colleen Maloney
Otto Kamensek’s Exhibition:
Shards, Bone Deep
April 17th – May 8th, 2014.
Port Moody Art Centre (PMAC)
2425 St Johns Street
Port Moody, BC V3H 2B2
Otto Kamensek’s ceramic work has generated interest within the local art circles and the arthritis research community. Living with arthritis is reflected in Otto’s artistic expression and his work has led to invitations to present at community events and at national and international arthritis conferences. Last year, Otto earned a one-year ceramic artist-in-residence award at the Port Moody Art Centre (PMAC) to further explore his creativity. The residency gives him a private studio space and access to equipment in which to develop his craft. This year, his sculptures will be showcased in a solo exhibition titled, Shards, Bone Deep, a play on words relating to a piece of pottery or stone and the sharp ragged pain of arthritis.
Otto’s association with the PMAC and his involvement with the Arthritis Research Centre of Canada, as a member of the Consumer Advisory Board, coincided with the creation of what is now a series of pieces depicting the dimensions of arthritis. He explained that as a student of art history he wanted to “try” to meld his health experiences into his art in a meaningful expression of life with chronic disease.
The first piece in his exploration of arthritis, and one of the 12 pieces in his upcoming solo exhibition, is the Chronic Disease Staircase. It depicts a small figure on the bottom step of a multi-tiered staircase looking at risers that become progressively higher, while his shadow falls forward melting into the tip of the second step.
Otto says he knows the feeling of being overwhelmed because he’s been there; “It’s the end of the day, the sun is setting, and no matter what you have tried throughout the day, you’re still at the bottom of the stairs. It’s sheer frustration.”
His second piece, The Glimmer of Hope, was a turning point for him. It began as all Otto’s pieces begin with an idea and a sketch. But unlike other pieces that progress to the maquete stage and then on to the building of the ceramic sculpture, this piece came to a full stop.
“It is a very personal piece and it was difficult to construct because it required revisiting my past,” he explained. “I had to decide if I really wanted to do it because it seemed to be pushing me down rather than lifting me up.” It gives those without arthritis or chronic disease a glimpse at the ravages of the disease and its emotional impact.
The two biggest pieces slated for the exhibition are Bone Deep, a hand at just over two feet in height, and a three-foot high caricature titled The Fog of Fatigue.
The hand is exquisite in its detail and artistry. It shows the findings related to inflammatory and osteoarthritis including muscle, bone and tendons, and muscle wasting in the palm. On each finger is written the word arthritis. The letters on one of the fingers are fashioned to resemble bone.
The caricature is my favourite. One look and you know it portrays fatigue; you know what it feels like to be constantly tired. And you know how fatigue can make it difficult to concentrate because it can cloud the mind. But one look isn’t enough. His work has many layers and a depth that goes unrealized with only a quick look. The Fog of Fatigue deserves concentrated inspection and is a must see at the exhibition.
Two of the other pieces in the exhibition are An Angry Joint, and Arthritis Still Life. An Angry Joint demonstrates Otto’s talent for creating powerful, dramatic faces that capture the emotional and physical scars of living with a chronic disease. Although I am not an art critic by profession, I do enjoy all forms of art and explore art galleries during my travels. Based on the quality of his work and the important subject matter it depicts, I would like to see Otto’s work showcased in a major national gallery. It would prompt a discussion about arthritis and chronic disease in general.
Otto’s sculptures from his solo exhibition are not for sale. It is part of his commitment to promoting arthritis advocacy and will grow in size as time allows and ideas develop. His greatest wish is that the collection will be exhibited in other cities so that people can develop a better understanding of what it is like to live with arthritis.
There is sadness in his voice when he says that his residency at the PMAC ends on May 1st. “It’s been fun”, he says.