Art for Alzheimer’s: Catherine Benny’s “2012”

Catherine Benny’s “Les bicyclettes d’Amsterdam/Rush Hour”
Painter Catherine Benny decamped from Laval to Montreal about three years ago, and, unable to bring her backyard garden along, she turned to painting as a new, more urban-friendly creative outlet. And then, says her daughter Nadine, after six months, “the curve just went way up and she started doing abstract stuff and really, really cool things started to come out.”

This sense of surprise is apparent when Benny talks about her own work. “When I’m in front of a canvas, I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m shocked, it’s amazing.” While natural talent is clearly a factor here, so is hard work. Inspired, she chants, “I just do it, I just do it, I just do it!” She also admits that her creativity is aided and abetted, since “I don’t clean much. I don’t cook, my husband cooks.” Her shock and amazement can also be felt in the impressive range of the displayed works in her current exhibit at Galerie Espace: 53 peopleless pieces of pure abstraction and forest landscape are juxtaposed with two very different takes on the city: one moody, noir-ish and globby, the other a flattened storybook-style happy.

A key driver behind Benny’s creative progress has been her mother, Jeannine, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s roughly six months after her daughter started painting. Benny says, “I’m just painting and it helps me deal with my mother’s illness. It’s such a great outlet, I find, like any hobby I guess.”

Except that not all hobbies give back. In this case, Benny has decided that proceeds from the sale of her works will be donated to the Alzheimer Groupe Inc. (AGI), which assists the afflicted and their families, and which also helped organize this definitely worth seeing show. ■

Catherine Benny’s 2012 runs until July 31 at Galerie Espace (4844 Saint-Laurent)

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