Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Tragedy and pain expressed in art: exhibit rooted in Derksen murder

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PEOPLE live in a world of "maybes and mights," British novelist Jenny Diski once observed. "When something real happens, it feels strangely unreal."

Cliff and Wilma Derksen have lived with that "strangely unreal" reality for much of the past 28 years, since daughter, Candace, was murdered on her way home from school. The trial convicting her killer concluded only a year ago.

The Derksen family has put that reality into an art exhibit called Indescribable: It Is About Murder, that opened Friday night in Winnipeg. Among its pieces are Cliff Derksen's sketches, and daughter Odia Reimer's crochet pieces -- Rorschach-like, multi-coloured flat circles -- they drew and crocheted during the 25 days of trial.

One of the sketches by Derksen, who has dabbled in art all his life, depicts a witness on the stand armed with belts of ammunition across his shoulders and a holstered pistol on his hip.

"Every lawyer says, 'My honourable friend,' even though you know they don't like each other. They keep up that decorum except when it comes to cross-examining witnesses. Defence lawyers disparage them and discourage them and make false comments to trick the witness. I got to seeing that it was dangerous," Derksen explained.

The most powerful piece is Seventy by Seven, in which Reimer, who is an installation artist and volunteer curator at Altona's Gallery in the Park, has crocheted 490 teardrops that hang suspended, representing the feelings of what it's like to lose a loved one to murder.

Another work by Reimer is a series of 66 photographs retracing the route Candace walked before her murder. It calls to mind the Walk to Golgotha paintings in some Roman Catholic churches.

Faith is evident in Derksen's works, which include sculptures of his favourite biblical character, David.

"He was a musician, a poet, and a warrior. That's just such a range. He's very unique," he said.

One sketch is of two Snoopies, from Peanuts cartoons, surrounded by numerous Woodstocks. It was done during one of Cliff's lowest point during the trials. The Woodstocks represent friends who supported him.

Also on display are works by 15-year-old Kelsie Trudeau, whose brother, Morgan, was killed in 2003. "It made me feel closer to Morgan," she said.

Curator Ray Dirks said the gallery likes to host issue-oriented exhibits.

The exhibit is showing at the Mennonite Heritage Church Gallery, at Canadian Mennonite University, until March 10.

bill.redekop@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 28, 2012 A4

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