The Scar Project

A sermon preached today in the Chapel of The Presbyterian College.

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Nadia Myre is an Algonquin and Quebecois artist originally from Maniwaki who now lives and works here in Montreal. She’s not well known across the country, but her work is significant enough that she has a solo show at the Musée des beaux-arts here in Montreal right now. That exhibit explores the encounter between the Indigenous peoples and western, colonial cultures – an encounter she actually embodies in her own person.

Nadia Myre is perhaps best known for what she called “The Scar Project.” It was 8-year undertaking that ran from 2005 to 2013. Strictly speaking, it wasn’t Myre’s own work. Rather, the scar project was a communal work – a work created by many people over those eight years.

13-Nadia-Myre-Scar-ProjectOver those years, the artist invited participants to sew their scars – physical scars, emotional scars, or psychological scars – to sew their scars into a 10-inch by 10-inch canvas. Each participant, each person, was given their own framed canvas, into which they could sew representations of the pain of their lives, the scars of their bodies and souls. Each participant was also invited to write a narrative, short or long, to accompany their canvas. Myre brought this project to schools, to seniors residences, to museums, and to galleries – and over the eight-year period, a total of 1,400 canvases were completed. She then exhibited them in a variety of contexts and a variety of ways. Myre created both a video installation and a book that brought together the images with the stories. Let me give just two examples of the anonymous narratives shared as part of the project: Continue reading

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scars – a poem

A poem referencing the Gospel lectionary passage for this coming Sunday. John 20:19-31.

Scars

Running blind ‘round a corner,
Robber to a cop in hot pursuit,
Forehead meets half-opened door;
Pain, dizziness, trickle of blood.

Childhood memory is borne in the body,
Fibrous tissues heralding past pain,
Scar as locus of life’s hurt and healing.

Boyhood hands whittle a branch,
Releasing bark, sharpening to a point.
“Always away from you,” momentarily forgotten,
Jackknife jumps, slices skin, hits bone.  Continue reading

Brokenness and Beauty

UnknownKintsugi (or kintsukuroi) is a Japanese practice and refers to the repair of broken pottery. In this particular practice, a broken piece of pottery is repaired using a resin that is sprinkled with gold. The pieces of a broken bowl or cup of plate are bound together with this gold-sprinkled resin.

The result is striking, as is apparent from the bowl pictured.

When these pieces of pottery were originally crafted they were beautiful in their own right – they were crafted with care; they were functional; they were unique. But somewhere along the line they got broken. Perhaps they were treated carelessly – maybe banged down on a table in anger. Or perhaps they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and were mistakenly sent tumbling to the floor. Whatever happened, the pieces ended up strewn across the floor.

But someone cared enough to take these broken bowls – and to mend them. And the result is not a piece of pottery that is returned to its original condition. The result is not a bowl that is the same as it always was. Rather, the result of this repair work is a bowl that carries in itself the marks of the past – it has been broken, that much is obvious – it is scarred. Continue reading