Peterborough County artist works with hospice nurse on new book about loss
Life, love. The severity of grief and learning to let go.
Uncomfortable truths and stark realities are confronted and explored in the newly released art book ‘Love and Loss’, a provocative and unflinching look at author Jocelyn Brown’s 16-year career as a healthcare nurse. palliatives in oncology.
Drawn from Brown’s insights into his day-to-day work supporting terminal cancer patients and their families – thoughts carved into journals and poured into his phone; stories expressing “desperation, despair, anger and concern for those left behind, along with surprising currents of joy and peace” – the text is married to visceral artwork by Ramune Luminaire.
Peterborough-based Luminaire – an artist, draftsman and sculptor who creates installation pieces from her studio near Big Cedar north of Burleigh Falls – met Brown during the pandemic, when the two crossed paths through Collaborate For Change , an initiative organized by Taboo Health of Toronto .
As part of the program, people in the health field were put in contact with artists. Healthcare workers and creatives had the opportunity to connect via Zoom to see if their storytelling goals aligned.
“I was immediately drawn to Brown,” Luminaire recalls.
The feeling was mutual.
The two began corresponding via email, sharing ideas with each other.
“She is a palliative care nurse and wanted to talk about death and how people die. I found her very bright and articulate. I said, ‘I really know you’re the one I’d like to work with.’ (Brown) was also interested in working with me, so we were compatible,” Luminaire continued.
The pair then decided to combine Brown’s thoughts for years with Luminaire’s vibrant, medium-mix artwork.
For Luminaire, who created large-scale pieces – using everything from pastel, acrylic paint, graphite and charcoal on paper to colored pencil, spray paint on plywood and photo transfers on panels Birch – her work was largely intuitive, stemming from a natural, kindred connection between her and Brown.
“For me, the practice of drawing, making transfers of photos and linocuts, allows me to meditate on (the subject of death). Be with him non-verbally. And – inevitably – to approach it with loving acceptance,” Luminaire said.
Working in tandem, Luminaire and Brown form a symbiotic synergy – Brown’s compelling words are complemented by Luminaire’s captivating art.
“There can be beauty in death,” writes Brown. “Death is unequaled in meaning and intensity. Much of it is unknowable, intangible, but it expands our ability to bear witness to life.
In “Love and Loss,” Brown documents the patients she’s encountered along the way, working to normalize death by focusing on love — not fear.
There’s Briella, the 34-year-old outdoor enthusiast and music lover diagnosed with liver cancer, who danced by her hospital bed and sang in the shower – “happy till the end”.
Brown is struck by her composure and courage.
There is Daniel, husband and father of a four-year-old daughter and a six-year-old son. Daniel has 12 months to live.
He feels guilty for being sick. He refuses to accept the inevitable — and that’s okay, Brown realizes.
All she can do is let him know that he is not alone and that his family will be supported in his loss.
Brown Guides — guide patients through the complicated maze of end-of-life care.
But she also learns.
Each patient teaches her something about life – unbreakable spirits and the beauty that comes with vulnerability.
With each pass, Luminaire’s art fills every page.
When Brown writes about heartbreaking questions asked by children – “why does she die?” Why can’t you make it better? — Luminaire painted teddy bears and children’s boots, neatly aligned.
When Brown writes about letting go and glorious moments “nested in tragedy,” Luminaire merges pastel, graphite, and charcoal to create a cluster of faded flowers placed in a vase.
Like Brown, Luminaire has always been drawn to death; taboo subjects that society avoids.
Whether through art or words, she has always been a storyteller. Born in Montreal, Luminaire moved to England at the age of 10, where she later studied art in London. She has worked as a magazine editor and television writer and researcher, focusing on documentaries.
A ‘Love and Loss’ exhibition featuring pieces from Luminaire and excerpts from the book was held at the Rails End Gallery in Haliburton from April to July.
“It turned out wonderfully,” Luminaire said. I can’t imagine it will get any better to be honest. It really seemed to touch people and do what we were hoping for – bring out something that isn’t often talked about.
“A guest said to the curator, ‘I’m not going to waste another minute of my life.'”
Proceeds from book sales go to support bereaved children through Camp Erin in Toronto. Brown and Luminaire are aiming to raise $10,000.
The duo are in talks with Artscape in Toronto and Toronto Public Libraries about creating additional exhibits.
“Love and Loss” can be purchased at https://ramuneluminaire.com.