Exhibition: Ceramic sculpture by Otto Kamensek focuses on art and arthritis

Otto Kamensek’s ceramic sculpture will be exhibited in his end-of-residency show entitled “Shards, Bone Deep.” The exhibition, which opens the evening of April 17th and runs to May 8th, will be in the 3-D Gallery at the Port Moody Arts Centre. The centre is located at 2425 St. Johns Street, Port Moody, British Columbia.

On May 1, from 7:00-9:00 p.m, Mr. Kamensek will discuss “the release of pain, frustration, and stress through art” during an exhibition and studio tour at the Port Moody Arts Centre. Call (604)931-2008  to make a reservation for the tour or for more information. A $10.00 donation for talk and tour is suggested, with proceeds going to the OK Bursary.

Colleen Maloney’s article, “Art and Arthritis: Shards, Bone Deep,” was originally published in the Arthritis Research Centre of Canada newsletter for Spring ’14.

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“Art and Arthritis: Shards, Bone Deep,”

by Colleen Maloney

Otto Kamensek’s ceramic work has generated interest within the local art circles and the arthritis research community. Living with arthritis is reflected in Otto’s artistic expression and his work has led to invitations to present at community events and at national and international arthritis conferences. Last year, Otto earned a one-year ceramic artist-in-residence award at the Port Moody Art Centre (PMAC) to further explore his creativity.  The residency gives him a private studio space and access to equipment in which to develop his craft.  This year, his sculptures will be showcased in a solo exhibition titled, Shards, Bone Deep, a play on words relating to a piece of pottery or stone and the sharp ragged pain of arthritis.

Otto’s association with the PMAC and his involvement with the Arthritis Research Centre of Canada, as a member of the Consumer Advisory Board, coincided with the creation of what is now a series of pieces depicting the dimensions of arthritis.  He explained that as a student of art history he wanted to “try” to meld his health experiences into his art in a meaningful expression of life with chronic disease.

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“Chronic Disease Staircase”

The first piece in his exploration of arthritis, and one of the 12 pieces in his upcoming solo exhibition, is the Chronic Disease Staircase. It depicts a small figure on the bottom step of a multi-tiered staircase looking at risers that become progressively higher, while his shadow falls forward melting into the tip of the second step.

Otto says he knows the feeling of being overwhelmed because he’s been there;  “It’s the end of the day, the sun is setting, and no matter what you have tried throughout the day, you’re still at the bottom of the stairs.  It’s sheer frustration.”

His second piece, The Glimmer of Hope, was a turning point for him.  It began as all Otto’s pieces begin with an idea and a sketch.  But unlike other pieces that progress to the maquete stage and then on to the building of the ceramic sculpture, this piece came to a full stop.

“It is a very personal piece and it was difficult to construct because it required revisiting my past,” he explained.  “I had to decide if I really wanted to do it because it seemed to be pushing me down rather than lifting me up.” It gives those without arthritis or chronic disease a glimpse at the ravages of the disease and its emotional impact.

The two biggest pieces slated for the exhibition are Bone Deep, a hand at just over two feet in height, and a three-foot high caricature titled The Fog of Fatigue.

The hand is exquisite in its detail and artistry.  It shows the findings related to inflammatory and osteoarthritis including muscle, bone and tendons, and muscle wasting in the palm.  On each finger is written the word arthritis.  The letters on one of the fingers are fashioned to resemble bone.

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“The Fog of Fatigue”

The caricature is my favourite.  One look and you know it portrays fatigue; you know what it feels like to be constantly tired.  And you know how fatigue can make it difficult to concentrate because it can cloud the mind.  But one look isn’t enough.  His work has many layers and a depth that goes unrealized with only a quick look.  The Fog of Fatigue deserves concentrated inspection and is a must see at the exhibition.

Two of the other pieces in the exhibition are An Angry Joint, and Arthritis Still LifeAn Angry Joint demonstrates Otto’s talent for creating powerful, dramatic faces that capture the emotional and physical scars of living with a chronic disease.  Although I am not an art critic by profession, I do enjoy all forms of art and explore art galleries during my travels.  Based on the quality of his work and the important subject matter it depicts, I would like to see Otto’s work showcased in a major national gallery.  It would prompt a discussion about arthritis and chronic disease in general.

Otto’s sculptures from his solo exhibition are not for sale.  It is part of his commitment to promoting arthritis advocacy and will grow in size as time allows and ideas develop.  His greatest wish is that the collection will be exhibited in other cities so that people can develop a better understanding of what it is like to live with arthritis.

There is sadness in his voice when he says that his residency at the PMAC ends on May 1st.  “It’s been fun”, he says.

Otto and His Sculptures

The Glimmer of Hope is a sculpture that reflects Otto’s visual journey of pain.  It portrays a man bent forward in a chair, his arms resting on his scar streaked knees and his body infused with spikes, nails and needles.   Otto says he wanted to illustrate old rusty pain, sharp needle-like pain, and festering pain that seems to go on forever.  At the same time he wanted to depict hope, maybe even trust, that something better was around the corner, hence the name The Glimmer of Hope.  And there was.  His work is intricate and expressive and appeals to people with chronic diseases.  It depicts how they feel and helps them to better translate their feelings.  It gives those without arthritis or chronic disease a glimpse at the ravages of the disease and its emotional impact.

Arthritis Still Life is fashioned in the Flemish style, when artisans created pieces depicting possessions that illustrated prominent features of their lives and status in the community.   Within this genre Otto has created an arthritis still life.  It contains a table, and beside it is a raised chair and a cane.  On top are all the items associated with arthritis treatment including a small splash of red that I will not reveal.  You must see and discover the significance for yourself.

About Otto

In 1974, Otto was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis — he was 9 years old. It was an era he refers to as the stone age of arthritis treatment. The disease brought changes to his body that necessitated changes in physical activity. When soccer was no longer an option, he turned to drawing and building models. In his  20’s and early 30’s, he worked as a buyer in the electronics industry; by his mid 30’s arthritis had played havoc with his body, resulting in hip and knee replacements and four long-term in-patient stays in a rehabilitation centre. Prowling the halls at night  he discovered the rehab centre’s art studio, and, one day he ventured in. His life became much sweeter. Otto left the centre with paper mache masks tucked under his arms and enrolled in clay classes at the PMAC. This was the beginning of his affiliation with sculpture and his dedication to working with clay. In 2005 he collaborated with a friend to produce a ceramic sculpture title Joan of Art and won second prize at the Port Moody Society’s Wearable Art Show, a bi-annual event that attracts entries from around the world. Otto continues to mold his experience of living with arthritis with his artistic endeavours.

2 Comments

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2 Responses to Exhibition: Ceramic sculpture by Otto Kamensek focuses on art and arthritis

  1. Cathie Camley

    Powerful artistic statement.

    • Jan

      Hi, Cathie! Yes, Otto’s show is going to be incredible. It has been a pleasure seeing these pieces come together over the year. Maybe you’ll be able to make it over for it at some point. — Jan

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