When the late singer Amy Winehouse infamously tattooed a tear on her cheek, it seemed as though that tear might have been stolen from a raging storm, the criticism rained down so hard.
It was a solidarity move to support her recently jailed husband, Winehouse explained.
Tear tattoos show loyalty in a jailbird’s girlfriend, but also illustrate the number of people a gang member has killed, chided the press.
Soon paparazzi, seeking a shot, were out for blood.
A couple of years later, on the other side of the Atlantic, Winfield-based artist Rose Braun, picks up her water glass in a back room of the Kelowna Art Gallery and her own small ink loop, discretely placed in the crook of her index finger, flashes in view, a moment of artistic rebellion swirling past with a hint of Winehouse ingenuity.
Braun raises the tear to her face and mimes rubbing her eye.
“It’s for my brother,” she explains impishly before whipping her hand back down to rest on the table.
A few moments later she’s quietly unravelling the tale of their relationship from a small gallery space in the bowels of the building where she’s assembled a collection of mixed media pieces, sketches and paintings demonstrating their storyline in a project used largely to help herself cope with his passing.
“I realized after Ron died so much of my identity is wrapped around being a twin,” she says. “I just never imagined him not being there.”
Ron Braun, she goes on to say, was the one person who she could truly be “an asshole” with—his irreverent take on life punctuating everything from their daily conversations to his work as writer and litigator.
A lawyer and filmmaker in Vancouver, Ron sounds as though he was equally good at sharing life experiences, no matter how counter to the grain.
He dabbled in filmmaking, working on subjects like Clifford Olson’s victims in the immediate aftermath of his arrest ,which his sister never saw. They were heading to the show in downtown Vancouver when she asked if it would upset her. The answer was yes, and so they turned around and went home, and she never went back for a look.
The exhibition of Braun’s artwork, entitled Requiem, was created in the aftermath of Ron’s death and admittedly there are dark images in this collection that, if one really sits down to think about, would classify as disturbing. Knowing Ron died of cancer, the frozen face of Nightmare leaves one with a haunting empathy, the charcoal lines thrown down on the page with such vigour that one can feel the pain in each stroke. But it is not a portrait, Braun says, lifting a little of the weight imagined.
“I know the nightmare was mine, not his,” she says. “Things just come to you and when things come to you, it’s always best not to question them.”
The happy twin girls pictured at the end of the row seem to set the mind at ease. There are plenty of good times in this show, glimpses of a life gone by, of childhood lost but appreciated, of friends working out their roles in life and each other’s worlds.
Braun herself went on to have a daughter and twin boys and said the experience showed her that twins have a relationship even before they are born, moving from one side to the other of their mother’s belly to compensate for one another’s needs.
That perfect sense of symmetry is evident in the show and the artist herself as she shares a conversation, always ensuring equal room for the other to speak, glimpses of the Braun twins shared humour sparkling through self-depreciating commentary and an artist’s curious questions.
Whether in the sketch of the boy and his Welsh corgi that open the show or the repurposed metal panels of braille that finish the room, there’s a calming sense of story to this work. This is a place of beautiful memories and the dark places found only in relationships of those who truly care.
Rose Braun’s Requiem runs now through Jan. 8 at the Kelowna Art Gallery. A complementary commercial show is on at SOPA Fine Arts, 2934 South Pandosy St.