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Rose Adams’ brain food 

Rose Adams’ Birds, Bones & Brains retrospective exhibit at Saint Mary’s Art Gallery is 25 years of thoughtful work involving the brain.

click to enlarge Songwriter Georgina Chambers of Rose Adams’ work: “She jumps the connection between life and death.
  • Songwriter Georgina Chambers of Rose Adams’ work: “She jumps the connection between life and death.

What does your brain look like? Birds, Bones & Brains is the retrospective exhibit covering Rose Adams' mind-blowing work from the last 25 years, which will be commemorated with a poetry reading on February 28 at the Saint Mary's University Art Gallery.

Best known for her work involving the brain, the exhibit covers Adams' journey as an artist through installation and fragment paintings. "I enjoy the process of making a piece," says Adams. "I would like to have to more time to contemplate my work. It's quite soothing to me."

The reading will feature original work from writers discussing their impressions of the art. Songwriter Georgina Chambers will perform an original song written especially for the exhibit. Chambers is a longtime friend of Adams'. "What I love about her work is that she jumps into the connection between life and death," says Chambers. "I see her brilliance and stubbornness in pieces like 'Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down,' where the life and death connection is there. It's inviting but not confrontational."

Adams began her career making grand installations to give viewers an immersive experience. Most of her work is based on nature and taxidermy. Adams completed her MFA in 1986 from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, where she currently teaches various courses. Her MFA show Gardens of Delight featured exquisite paintings of her garden laid on the ground. "It's all about process," says Adams. "There's a dialogue between the private art and public space, the individual and collective."

With the birth of her son Manuel in 1999 and her daughter's adoption, Adams took a new approach to her work. She created fragment paintings where she would mix various images on one canvas. In "The Soother," Adams mixes images of a baby soother with a bird's nest full of eggs to symbolize motherhood. "I didn't have time to do installations anymore because I had my son," says Adams. "I had to change the way I worked. I would do grids and put the images on top."

Adams also worked as artist-in-residence at the Memory Disability Clinic in 2004. Her time at the clinic began a long journey in documenting brain disorders, particularly Alzheimer's disease. A series of mixed media pieces documents the surgery of Parkinson's patient undergoing brain stimulation to reduce tremors. "Pre and Post Operative" shows the before and after x-rays of the brain after successful surgery with butterfly illustrations. "The doctors and patients were very generous with their time," says Adams. "I wanted to use the butterfly symbol to show transformation. I use the gold trimmed frames to show that the brain is rarified too much."

There are many interesting and complex pieces in the exhibit about the brain. Adams offers a glimpse into her brain through the painting "My Semiotic, Episodic, Procedural Memorial" (2010), showing images of her life located in the areas where the brain holds memories.

Perhaps her most personal work is in "60 Days Free Trial" (2007), a series of 65 relief prints of the brain with images conveying a person dying of Alzheimer's disease. Adams' mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2007. "In one of the prints, there's images of Valentines from my kids," says Adams. "No matter where I lived, my mother always sent me a Valentine. She stopped sending them six years ago. This piece always reminds me of her."

Birds, Bones & Brains
To March 9
Poetry reading Friday, February 28, 7pm
Saint Mary’s University Art Gallery, Loyola Building, 5865 Gorsebrook Avenue



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