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Seeds of Hope — in the face of suicide

Concordia professor Yehudit Silverman tackles stigma with a group exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
March 1, 2017
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By Andy Murdoch

Yehudit Silverman: “How do you express the complexities of suicide into a mask form?” “How do you express the complexities of suicide into a mask form?” | Photos by Yehudit Silverman


Concordia professor Yehudit Silverman’s exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) takes on a subject that many would shy away from. Seeds of Hope is an arts-based approach to suicide and resiliency, and it opens Wednesday, March 8.

The show examines suicide from multiple perspectives, and includes works that grew out of creative arts therapy workshops.

“The idea was to shed some light on the stigma and silence that surrounds the whole issue,” says Silverman.

“The exhibition asks, how do you express the complexities of the effects of suicide into a mask form?” 

Four groups of people with different relationships to the issue constructed masks for Seeds of Hope: Inuit who have felt the impact of suicide on their communities; survivors who lost loved ones to suicide; support workers who deal with issues around suicide and people who have contemplated suicide, or attempted to take their own lives. 

Over the course of the past year, each group met four times in the Education and Community Programmes Department of the MMFA. 
 

yehudit-inuit-participant-mask-2-620


Part of the therapeutic process was to choose the materials from which they would build their masks. Silverman laid out common art materials alongside more unusual ones, such as moss, dirt, tree roots, rusty nails, eggshells and wire.

“One man brought in his own dirt and used roots from the bottom of a tree. He had lost his father and the only time he felt connected to him was in nature. He used these materials to express that.”

Included in the exhibition are two videos Silverman made with filmmaker Martin Duckworth.

One features the different groups making their masks, and in the other, people talk about their masks’ meaning. The professor’s own documentary film, The Hidden Face of Suicide, will also be screened March 26 at the museum.

Silverman is chair of the Creative Arts Therapies Department and has received major SHHRC and FQRSC grant funding to use the arts to study the issue of stigma around suicide through the lens of drama therapy since 2005.

The exhibition is part of her larger research project — investigating the therapeutic value of using creative arts therapies with communities affected by suicide and assessing the value of public exhibitions to change public perceptions around suicide.

So far, she believes Seeds of Hope has been a positive experience for all involved. Each of the groups has formed close bonds and several participants want to keep meeting after the project ends.  

“The group that had experienced suicidality was so liberated to have a place where they could talk about it and not feel ashamed.”


Seeds of Hope runs from March 8 until April 2 at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Admission is free. The entrance is located at 2200 Crescent St.

The vernissage will be held on Tuesday, March 7, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

 



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