25 May

As the 20th anniversary of the passing of Guy Duguay approaches, I thought of re-posting this obit as a celebration of his life.

Remembering / Guy Duguay
Moncton artist returned to’paradise’
Published in the Telegraph Journal, Saturday, June 8, 1996 / Arts & Entertainment By Valerie LeBlanc

The life and work of Moncton artist Guy Duguay stands out as a testament to the power of creativity and perseverance. Since graduating in 1978 from the Fine Arts program at the Université de Moncton, he traveled to other parts of Canada and the world as a visiting artist, but because of his love for this region, he never stayed away for too long.

He saw New Brunswick, with its beaches, seafood and greenery, as a paradise. He even held an appreciation for the harsh winters, saying that being forced to stay inside gave him valuable time to get his work done. When he passed away last Sunday evening, a series of commemorative acknowledgements dedicated to the friend, colleague and family member began to take place.

His studio remained always in a state of flux, a beehive of activity. At any giving time a visitor could walk in and see the most current series of paintings, prints or sculptures in various stage of production scattered on tables, stacked, or spread out carefully on the floor. Visitors were often welcomed into the studio in the Aberdeen Cultural Centre which he shared with the artist Nancy King Schofield. On Monday, in the Café Terra Nova at Aberdeen, his family held a cinq à sept, the classic ‘opening’ time of art exhibits. Amid champagne toasts, many people talked of his warmth, his humour and of his feisty personality.

Nancy King Schofield remarked about the first time that she met Duguay: “I was a printmaking student at Mount Allison University in Sackville. He passed through the department one day and looked over everyone’s work. I wondered who this nosy character was as he took the liberty to lean over my shoulder. Before he made the very loud and rude comment that the work we were doing was …”meek.” I never forgot that the first encounter in all of the years we have known each other.”

Duguay was an artist who was in constantly trying out new materials and his latest exhibition Cé Mâle pas Mal is probably the most representative of the direction his life’s search had taken him. The show opened May 31 and will run until June 21 at IMAGO, the printshop in the Aberdeen Cultural Centre, where Duguay was a working member.

The exhibition includes paintings and prints. Common to them all is the representation of the male form. Also included in the exhibition are two limited-edition handmade books.

One of the books, printed in an edition of five, was a collaboration with artist Herménégilde Chiasson who provided the texts for La peau des choses le coeur du monde (The Skin of Things, the Heart of the World). During the memorial mass at the Roman Catholic Church in Dieppe on Wednesday morning, Chiasson read a few brief passage from the text, including this one:

Under the skin see the veins
Under the veins see the skeleton
Under the skeleton see the organs
Under the organs see the life
Under the life see the death
Under the death see the time
Under the time see the universe
Under the universe see the book
Under the book see the pages
Under the pages see the trees (translated from the French)

Chiasson ended by remarking on how much Duguay liked irony in life, and that, ironically, on such a beautiful day of summer, with the leaves in full bloom, he could not be here to see it.

The other book, printed in an edition of six, was a collaboration with Gérald Leblanc, who wrote the text. It was called Méditations sur le désir ( Meditations on Desire). Leblanc addressed the crowd at the opening of the exhibition on May 31 saying that it was one of the most amazing collaborations that he had had with anyone and he explained how the project had materialized.

“When I saw the book that Guy had made with Hermé [Chiasson], I was very jealous, and I told him so. He said: ‘Well, give me a text, I have been asking you for long enough.’ So I wrote the text that same day. He kept it with him and contemplated what he would do with it for a year. You see the results here today, a beautiful work of art and as I told him two days ago. A thing of beauty is a joy forever.”

Leblanc went on to read a few passages from the book. Each book contains alternating pages of prints of male nude in various poses, in both classical and modern styles, and pages of text, all on hand painted “marble” paper. Bound in a royal blue suede, each book is housed in a wooden box. The top of each box is made of one of Duguay’s molded plastic sculptures, a bronze ornament grasped by forms emerging from the plastic.

Duguay made books by hand for several years. He often gave workshop in bookmaking, eager to share the craft with others. The collaboration with Leblanc was one of his last projects. When he could no longer make it to his studio at Aberdeen to work, he rested at home and sewed the bindings of the books by hand.

As his condition deteriorated, it seemed his spirit got stronger. Visitors to his house remarked at how upbeat he remained. He offered friends and colleagues comments like “keep on working, keep on dreaming” right up until his last two days.

As a closing act of goodwill, he founded a trust fund and appointed his wife Louisa Barton- Duguay as trustee. The proceeds of the fund will be used toward the construction of a park in front of the Aberdeen Cultural Centre. The family has asked that donations be made to the trust fund.

In truth, the arts community has been living in a period of mourning for several weeks as Duguay’s battle with AIDS escalated and weakened his body. Many artists collaborated with him on projects and performances, realizing that it would be the last chance to do so.

But the knowledge that the end was near and the chance to prepare for the event has not made it any easier to see Duguay depart from the area’s arts community, but as Duguay put it in his own words, “Let me go. I have to try to pass through.”

We have to accept that the work of Guy Duguay is now complete.



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About Valerie LeBlanc

Originally from Halifax, Nova Scotia, pluri-­disciplinary artist and writer Valerie LeBlanc has worked in Canada, the United States, Europe, and Australia. Her creations travel between poetry, performance, visual and written theory. Valerie LeBlanc has been creating video poetry since the mid 1980’s, and is the creator of the MediaPackBoard (MPB), portable screening / performance device.

L’artiste pluridisciplinaire Valerie LeBlanc est vidéaste, poète, performeuse et essayiste. Son travail oscille entre le remarquable et le quotidien. Elle a exposé ses œuvres en Europe, en Australie et au Brésil. Elle crée des vidéopoèmes depuis le milieu des années 1980 et a inventé le MediaPackBoard (MPB), un appareil de projection mobile pour la performance.

Date : April 2020
Genre : Vidéopoésie/Videopoetry

Videopoetry / Vidéopoésie

Small Walker Press

Date : January 2021
Genre : Poetry