Roy Henry Vickers by Jo Slade
Back in 2006, I did an interview with one of Canada's most beloved artists, Roy Henry Vickers. I was doing a lot of interviews in those days, but the interview with Roy stood out from the others because the man is so compelling, with complex depths that slowly come to light in conversation. The interview proved to be a popular one, so popular that the magazine ran it a second time when launching a new publication a couple of years later. But more importantly, the interview marked the beginning of our friendship.
Roy and I liked the idea of working together again, and so over the years we've danced around with a variety of project ideas. Sometimes it's Roy's idea, sometimes mine, but either way the ideas are good ones, often great ones. However, we have a shared tendency to wander off into other projects, sometimes several at once, and so the ideas are put on the shelf. Still, we've been comfortable about it, knowing that something will happen when it happens.
In his book ‘Copperman: The Art of Roy Henry Vickers' the dedication reads, in part, "to those who know that weather is not good or bad, it is simply weather."
In so many ways, Roy's art itself is ‘simply weather'. Certainly anybody who sees it knows that it is ‘good' (an understatement), yet his work transcends such one-dimensional concepts. his work exists not to sell, not to awe, not even to beautify the world, although it does all three of these things. The work exists because each creation born in Roy's heart and soul is brought forth to be on canvas, each stroke a word, each painting a story, each finished piece of art existing solely to ‘be'. Being purely without agenda, his paintings help us find our own place in the complex weave of a shared human history. We aren't manipulated into feeling anything other than what we ourselves have in our hearts. This art sweeps us along on Roy's journey through life, and we are forever affected.
An elder now, Roy has recently embraced the native tradition of elders who have wisdom to impart: storytelling. He once told me, "I hear the storyteller and am choked with emotion at his ability to share from a very emotional and intimate place. His fears of doing so are rewarded by the attention and respect given by the listener." His storytelling is mesmerizing, and whether he's speaking of life's lessons or painting lessons, you are rapt, hanging on to each word. With his carefully spoken words, he gives you the space needed to think, just as his brush strokes give you the space needed to feel.
With a troubled past (he was once known as Raging Roy) and redemption found, he recognizes all too well the fleeting nature of life. "I'm filled with the awe of life, how beautiful and how swiftly it passes. The light in the morning brings a clearer vision of the world around. The mountains are closer, the river laughs, my children love to snuggle every day and often. My wife expresses the joy of being together and what a privilege it is. I sometimes am struck with the thought that I will not be here much longer, then I realize it's true! Life is short."
He's right about that, life is indeed short, but Roy Henry Vickers is making the most of his time here on earth. And I have no doubt that one day, at the right moment for both of us, the chance to work together again will appear, and the dance will be lovely.
by Jo Slade