The Sustenance Rite is the third circuit of the Blackwood Gallery’s Take Care. The exhibit’s message conveys ongoing ideas about self-care and help found in art.

“Tea Time: Mapping Informal Networks of Women Living with HIV” by Jessica Lynn Whitman grabs my attention: a circular table with appropriate pieces of a tea party to adorning the table. There are chairs, a tablecloth, and tea cups adorning the scene. I thought that this work of art gave off an inviting atmosphere for a tea party. When I viewed it, I felt a sense of community and intimacy.

More importantly, “Tea Time: Mapping Informal Networks of Women Living With HIV” has deeper undercurrents. It is conveying an idea of a lifestyle: a way for women with HIV experiences to gather around for a cup of tea and talk. On December 1st, Whitman plans to host a tea party in the gallery to commemorate the idea that helps the piece live on.

Erika DeFreitas’ “and every tear is from the other” is about sadness and how it affects individuals daily. The artist used white string to sew around the tear stains on individual tissues. Some are heavily traced, others are not. There is a sense of repetitiveness within the work—yet, grieving in this way can take shape in many different ways too.

Next, I view “Anxiety Escape Kit” by Justice Walz. This work is comprised of four white rectangles with pieces of items that someone with anxiety may require. Some of these items feature childhood objects, such as A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh and a copy of an Archie comic. Other kits include lollipops, cameras, and skipping rope within them. Perhaps lending a sense of comfort, the items seem to function like security blankets.

Next to each kit lays a set of instructions. The instructions explain the use of the kits and what you should do with the objects within them. The goal of these kits is to sooth an individual’s anxiety. It requires the typical art-goer to stop and think about how difficult life without an anxiety kit may be.

The general tone of the exhibit opens up feelings of hope. Canadian artists featured in this exhibition try to convey messages of loss and grievance in their artworks. However, it is ultimately up to the art-goer to determine the messages of the art works. Is the message about a loss of stability or the loss of innocence?

The exhibit neutralizes the negativity that may surround mental health. While anxiety could be approached with ignorance and fear, the artists create a space that invites viewers to understand anxiety.

The Sustenance Rite runs until December 9th at the Blackwood Gallery.

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