Artist's grief at losing a daughter painted in stark detail

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Renee Lalande's artwork will be on display at The Art Gallery - Cornwall for the month of February, beginning on Feb. 6.

Renée Lalande wears her heart on her sleeve - and her emotions can be found just below the surface.

The Long Sault teacher and artist, along with her husband Ian Butcher, have ridden a roller coaster of heartache and trauma in the last year, grappling with the loss of their daughter Jovie, who was just five months old when she lost her battle with Trisomy 18 a genetic disorder caused by the presence of all or part of an extra 18th chromosome.

In the year since little Jovie passed on, Lalande has been trying to process the grief and emotions that have, at times, boiled over.

Part of her journey includes a vast array of artwork, mostly paintings, that portray every inch of her grief in stark detail.

From massive paintings that show the image of a tearful woman amidst a backdrop of little birds, to the sculpture of an empty nest, Lalande's work elicits nearly as much emotion as it's meant to convey.

"It can be hard to express what I am going through," she said in an interview. "I feel the art describes what I am feeling."

One piece in particular is Lalande's favourite - and also the toughest for her to talk about.

It depicts a young child, lying peacefully with her eyes closed, while her mother holds her.

"I painted it in like eight hours," said Lalande, tears streaming down her face. "I look at this painting and I realize what I was feeling when she passed away. I was with her all the time. When she was at the hospital I stayed with her, sleeping in the room.

"But when she passed away I felt so empty. I had the feeling that she was alone."

Jovie was afflicted with a syndrome that occurs in around one in 6,000 live births and around 80 per cent of those affected are female. The majority of fetuses with the syndrome die before birth. The syndrome has a very low rate of survival, resulting from heart abnormalities, kidney malformations, and other internal organ disorders.

Jovie assed away on Feb. 6, 2012. One year later, on that exact date, her mother's powerful artwork will go on display at The Art Gallery - Cornwall on Pitt Street.

Much of the artwork imagery includes birds.

"We always called her out little bird," said Lalande. "We knew that one day she would fly away."

Lalande said her exhibit tells the story of her daughter, but also makes a point about processing grief.

"It really helps people to understand that other people don't need to be pushed through their grief," she said. "It's okay to feel grief, and move through it at your own pace."

The opening night for Lalande's exhibit, Feb. 6, will run from 6 to 9 p.m.

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  • Chris
    February 21, 2013 - 12:37

    I think her work is beautiful and deserves to be seen. What her and her husband went through is truly heartbreaking and they both have gone through and continue to go through different ways of grieving. Renee's artwork was her way of coping and it's very courageous of her to share that with the public eye. I'm very proud of her. Also, the work they've done to raise money for Roger's House since the passing of Jovie is truly inspirational and really shows how caring and selfless they are as individuals. Oscar, is what's wrong with society; closed minded and self absorbed with no understanding of empathy nor care to try to understand what other people may be going through. Ignore him and move on.

  • Lavender
    February 06, 2013 - 15:06

    Oscar Wilde: How positively offensive. Why have you not been monitored by the moderator of Seaway News? You have no understanding or empathy for 1- a parent's mourning the death of a baby 2- art 3- the history of humanity 4- human civility. The history of art depicts death from the Crucifixion to national wars to hieroglyphics of funerals to the mummifying of corpses and body parts... and a whole range of other dark subjects. Art therapy is an actual discipline which requires a Master of Counselling Psychology in order to be licenced. This young mother used art to express her pain... as opposed to, say (or in conjunction with), medication. If painting soothed the mourning mother and the artist, how does this bother you? Her baby's paintings are like photographs of the way she will remember he deceased baby for the rest of her life. Her baby is now resurrected in her imagination. Oscar Wilde: You.Are.Sick., not the mother, and I hope Seaway News monitors you as soon as possible. "We ask that users remain courteous. You may not post insulting, discriminatory or inappropriate content..."

  • Oscar Wilde
    January 26, 2013 - 18:58

    A morbid obsession expressed in painting might be excused as illness, but the morbid fascination of spectators at their exhibition? That's just sick. Please, please tell me that these works aren't for sale.