What's going on with Dave?

Another powerful ceramics show by Otto Kamensek opens at the Port Moody Arts Centre on Thursday.

Dave is a fictional 25-year-old working man who lives with his girlfriend.

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From the outside, his life is sweet but Dave has a secret and is in denial about what lies ahead. Dave is developing symptoms of a chronic progressive disease that affects one out of every 100 Canadians, making it the leading cause of disability in the country: Rheumatoid arthritis.

To put a face to the voices in Dave’s head, Otto Kamensek — the Port Moody Art Centre’s ceramic-artist-in-residence, who at the age of nine was diagnosed with what is known today as juvenile idiopathic arthritis — created a dozen clay characters.

There’s General E. Mune, who goes into battle when under attack — usually “at the most inopportune times, just like in real life,” Kamensek said.

There’s the neanderthal character, who displays the core emotions of pain, anger and happiness and expresses the physical toll of arthritis. And there are the professionals, too: a police officer, a doctor, a scientist; however, there’s also a criminal and a female hockey player, to demonstrate the proud Canadian athlete in all of us, he said.

Kamensek also has a streetwise waitress to represent the voice of reason — for example, when patients hear about hare-brained “medical” schemes — and there’s a little boy, a symbol of innocence. As well, Kamensek has thrown in a potter (the artist) as well as a clown for good measure.

“I wanted to bring humour to this subject,” he said of his exhibit called Dave, An Unexpected Tale, which opens on Thursday at PMAC. “My last show was so heavy so I wanted to bring in some comedy and to raise awareness about what millions of Canadians go through.”

An Emeritus member of the Consumer Advisory Board of the Arthritis Research Centre of Canada, Kamensek said he hopes to create a short film with his clay pieces that would see Dave being forced to make a decision and seek help in the end.

Kamensek’s work has gained worldwide attention. This fall in Vancouver, he will speak and show some of his art pieces at an international conference titled Where’s the Patient’s Voice in Health Professional Education?

• Also opening July 23 at 6 p.m. is Double Life, a group show by Kimberly Blackstock, Laurel Swenson, Melanie Ellery,Rebecca Marks, Kelly Brooks and Tannis Hopkins. Call 604-931-2008.


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