The painting Interior #8/Exit may have been painted over 40 years ago, but it has struck a chord with us living in long-term care in the COVID present. The pandemic has left us feeling isolated in these facilities we call our home.
Artist Caroline Dukes has captured that feeling of being the disappeared within our society. “The colours are just beautiful…eerie but beautiful. I feel once we reach a certain age everyone just tucks us away like we’re ghosts. This painting captures that perfectly, especially with the small, ghost-like, erased-looking image hidden in the background area behind the main figures.” —Sachi, Elder of Eden Care Communities
As a group viewing the work in person, what caught our attention was Dukes’ ability to emote our common thoughts on the feelings of isolation, aimlessness, and idle wandering, and at the same time the stagnant stillness that COVID has caused us to feel these past 18 months. The sheer scale that the artist chose, the faceless, ghost-like figures — even the nurse is faceless — these details captivated us.
“Basically, they look confused…and the nurse is there but not there. They’re all stuck. With COVID, we’re feeling stuck too. Not just us residents, but staff too. This painting is amazing because it fits with our experiences today with COVID; it’s like we’re turning back the time.” —Margaret, Elder of Eden Care Communities
“I like how the artist placed the figures in the painting. It draws your eye into the room they’re in.” —Lucy, Elder of Eden Care Communities
“The way the artist painted the people; it reminds me of death. Everyone looks dead. But I don’t feel the way these people look. It’s just a dead painting to me.” —Ruby, Elder of Eden Care Communities
Spending a moment finding an EXIT from our typical COVID-restricted day by taking time to view in person the MacKenzie Art Gallery’s exhibition, we feel that Community Watch, along with the other exhibitions available, is truly a welcome reprieve. We want to thank the MacKenzie for inviting us to reflect on the work of Caroline Dukes. It gives us a voice, a presence. We’re still here, and we encourage anyone needing an EXIT from these pandemic times to go spend time at the gallery.
“The exit sign is small, but you notice it!” —Audrey, Elder of Eden Care Communities The MacKenzie would like to thank Crystal Massier, Community Enrichment Specialist for Visual Arts for facilitating the tour and collecting reflections from the elders.