Nanaimo sculptor Ruben Galdames is presenting his work at Gallery Merrick from Nov. 9 to 11. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)

Nanaimo sculptor turns desperation into creation

Sculpting helped Ruben Galdames cope while undergoing cancer treatment

Ruben Galdames took up sculpting a few years ago while he was undergoing treatment for cancer. At the time he was given a 20 per cent chance to live, and the busts he built in response to his situation depict anguished faces and silent screams.

“They all were representing what I was feeling, what I was dealing with,” the Nanaimo artist said of his work, adding, “I was very conscious about the hell I was going through.”

One piece from that period shows a broken face being rebuilt with wires.

“That’s how I felt after chemo and after they destroyed me completely,” Galdames said. “I didn’t have anything. I was completely flat dead. So I was fractured, I was taken into pieces and than I had to kind of re-glue myself.”

Galdames said his art helped him keep it together through his illness by providing an outlet for his emotions.

As a beginner with clay, Galdames sought technical instruction at VIU, auditing ceramics classes and then going into directed studies. He said he likes the immediacy of sculpting.

“It’s very forgivable. You can go back and forth and I like the instant response of it,” he said. “I cannot paint. You paint and you have to wait two days to dry… I want it now.”

Galdames said he particularly enjoyed presenting his work to the class for group critique. He said his work often left everyone in tears, which he saw as an indication that he was doing good work.

“A good friend of mine said, ‘You have done 10 years of therapy, cleansing, in one semester,” he said.

Living in constant pain led to Galdames losing his fear of death, a realization embodied in Death, one of his pieces that made the biggest impact on his classmates.

“Death for me was absolutely delicious. It was friendly, it was quiet … no vomiting no pain no nothing,” he said. “I was like, ‘God, you’re gorgeous, you are delightful, I want to go with you.’”

One of his classmates was so moved that she showed a photo the sculpture to her mother, also diagnosed with fatal cancer.

“I said, ‘This is it. I can break this piece … it did what it was supposed to do: Just keep that lady calm with death and come to terms with death,” he said.

Galdames, who is now cancer-free, will be showing some of his latest work as well as older pieces at Gallery Merrick from Nov. 9 to 11. His sculptures will be paired with paintings by artist Mary Lottridge. Galdames said his latest work has taken a more peaceful tone.

“You go though denial, acceptance and the peace that comes after that,” he said. “Now my pieces are very peaceful, very calm, they’re not angry… It changed, and you can see it from the first ones I did to what I’m doing now.”

WHAT’S ON … Opening reception for Ruben Galdames and Mary Lottridge show at Gallery Merrick, 13B Commercial St., on Friday, Nov. 9 at 7 p.m.



arts@nanaimobulletin.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Discovery Island wolf continues to thrive

The wolf, known as ‘Takaya’, has lived on the island for seven years

Early indications say allergy season could be milder this spring

The Aerobiology Lab collects pollen samples from across Canada to help make predictions

EDITORIAL: Housing is one of our basic needs

We all need food, clothing and shelter first

BIG READ: The two sides of the Strait of Georgia roe herring fishery

The case for the Strait of Georgia roe herring fishery Comox fisherman,… Continue reading

Victoria HarbourCats give away funeral to lucky fan

Just in case you die of excitment, all the bases are covered

After mosque attacks, New Zealand bans ‘military-style’ guns

The gunman killed 50 in a Christchurch mosque

Scientists disembark in Nanaimo after international expedition probes Pacific salmon

Canadian, American, Russian, Korean and Japanese scientists survey salmon in Gulf of Alaska

Victoria meme accounts unite residents

Poking fun at common frustrations around Greater Victoria brings laughs

Okanagan man, Yorkshire terrier chased by coyote

Animal sightings have been reported around West Kelowna and the Central Okanagan

Having phone within sight while driving does not violate law: B.C. judge

The mere presence of a cell phone within sight of a driver is not enough for a conviction, judge says

B.C. lottery winner being sued by Surrey co-workers

They claim he owes them $200,000 each, in a lawsuit filed in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver

Most Read