For most of 2018, I have been admiring Doug Driediger’s sketches posted on his Facebook page after hospital visits with his wife who has been having regular dialysis treatments since February. Rather than using the term hospital visits they call them “date nights,” as a way to stay positive.
So far in 2018, they have had almost 100 “date nights.” Probably more than any couple reading this blog.
Date nights also became life drawing nights with Gayle often being the model. Doug would bring his sketchbook and sketch while they chatted. For Doug sketching is something he has to do everyday…just like some people have to go for a run or a walk everyday.
Soon the sketching became a regular part of the date night. Then he experimented with posting the evening’s drawings on Facebook as way of keeping family and friends updated. Often I and others would comment on how much we enjoyed the work, not just for sharing s how they were doing, but as art. The idea of an great exhibition was suggested many times. In his artist’s statement Doug says “the online community support is a source of strength and comfort for myself and my wife.”
Doug admits he was surprised at the therapeutic power of art-making as one deals with sickness, suffering and caring. I loved the immediacy and intimacy of the work and how it is both personal and universal.
The installation of the sketches in the lobby of the cSpace was clever and playful. Each sketch was displayed on a old fashion clipboard dangling from the ceiling. The 20+ clipboards created a contemporary mobile that you walked through to view the always twisting and turning art. The metaphors were many - the twists and turns of life or the twist and turns of different medical diagnosis and of course the obvious doctor’s clipboard.
There was also a clever interplay of the playful installation and the somber subject matter. The “date night” in the hospital was further played up at the reception with the juice cartons and apple sauce cup refreshment, as well as hand sanitizer and face masks provided for anyone who wanted one.
On the surrounding walls, Doug exhibited his studio work from the same time as the “date night” sketches - a series of portraits of ravens, titled “Conspiracy,” the collective noun for a flock of ravens.
In Greek mythology, ravens are associated with Apollo, the god of prophecy. They are said to be a symbol of bad luck. The title could easily have a double meaning as Doug and Gayle could justifiably feel there is a conspiracy against them as they have both dealt with serious medical issues for years now.
Was it irony or intentional Doug chose to the raven a carrion bird often associated with death and the afterlife as the subject for his work while away from Gayle. If you look closely, the text from the prayer “Our Father” is integrated into a few of the works - as if he is praying for his sick wife.
While there are similarities in the strong lines and mark-making in both exhibitions, the “Conspiracy” drawings are more complex, elaborate mixed-media collages that invite us to ponder the layers of materials and meanings that could easily be a metaphor for the layers of experiences we all accumulate over our lifetime.
Several of the works are on what looks like discarded cardboard rescued from the garbage. We are left to ponder….what is the meaning of this?
My favourite piece in the entire show was what I thought was Doug’s self portrait. Turns out it is Gayle’s drawing of Doug. He explained to me she has to stay incredibly still, due to issues with the arterial line of the blood cleaning machine, which meant she couldn't look at the page. So he had to positioning her hand on the paper and start her off and she could only look at him.
It is amazing how this blind, line drawing captures a likeness of the artist. I love that he seems to be chuckling or grinning about something, as Doug is always upbeat no matter how much life is trying to beat him down.
Note: The exhibition continues until Dec 20, 2018. cSpace is located at 1721 29th Ave SW.