Local painter Monk has been in Vancouver to help amplify the cultural impact of the Winter Olympics but she has also been playing a significant humanitarian role due to an untimely tragedy just before the games began last Friday.
Georgian Nodar Kumaritashvili suffered a fatal accident on the luge run during practice just hours before the opening ceremonies. With the death weighing heavily on many in the sports community, Monk created a painting of the old growth cedar forest at Vancouver Island’s Cathedral Grove in his memory.
Anyone who knows Monk or has seen her in action knows she rarely works alone. This time she enlisted the help of some young apprentices from the Vancouver Children’s Hospital. Each made a brush mark called a spirit stroke on the work that depicts two of the regal trees, each one dedicated to the fallen athlete and also to Jack Poole, the Vancouver Olympic Committee chairman who died late last year. The one-metre-by-1.82 metre painting called Nodar’s Spirit was unveiled during a special ceremony on Monday in Spirit Square in the Richmond O Zone area of the Olympics.
She described the scene with its otherwise festival-like atmosphere. “It certainly is overwhelming for me. The crowds are totally immense.”
She said awareness and interest in the work is so high that even when she has to leave her post, someone always comes along to take her place. “People will go through your stuff because they want to be involved in this particular painting, because they want to have their say. It’s sort of like therapy. They’ll find the paintbrushes. They’ll find the paint. You don’t even have to leave it for 30 seconds and they’re doing that. It’s amazing! It’s quite overwhelming the sentiment that’s out there.”
Some have found the experience to be very emotional, and it helps them deal with their sorrow. Many have even sent along notes to be passed on to Kumaritashvili’s family. Monk declared her belief that the spirits and memories of the two individuals will live on just as the symbolic trees have for many, many years.
For more information about Monk’s participation or other cultural activities taking place in Richmond in conjunction with the Olympics visit www.richmondozone.ca.