Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Elana Wolff Interviews Artist Regine Kurek (Part Two)

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Elana Wolff Interviews Artist Regine Kurek (Part Two)

Regine Kurek, born and raised in Germany, holds a degree in anthroposophical Art Therapy from the Kunststudientstatte, Ottersberg, Germany and a diploma in Biographical Counselling from the Goetheanum, Dornach, Switzerland. Regine emigrated to Canada in 1983 and in 1989 established in Toronto, Arscura, a school for art in social and healing fields, based in anthroposophy. Anthroposophy, meaning “wisdom of humanity,” is the name Rudolf Steiner gave to the modern spiritual path which seeks to connect the spiritual in the human being with the spiritual in the cosmos. The mission of Arscura is to cultivate this connection through art.

Arscura graduate Elana Wolff gets Regine talking about the Arscura initiative, its birth and growth, the evolution of her own arts path, the mission of art in contemporary society and the series of books she’s currently working on.

Continued from Elana Wolff Interviews Artist Regine Kurek (Part One)

EW: So from early childhood you knew you wanted to be an artist. Can you speak about your early environment and who engendered your interest in the arts.

RK: My parents and grandfather were very involved in choral music, church music. So I came into music from my close family. But the best friend of my father — Martin Domke — was an artist, a Bauhaus student, a student of Oskar Schlemmer — one of the founding members of the Bauhaus in Weimar. When we were small, Domke bought the music house in our village — Hepsisau. The house was called the music house because that’s where the choirs met to practice. He rebuilt it with the help of my father and renovated it as his studio. It was a totally magical place, and from age six, seven, eight onwards, we would spend time there. That was also where later on I took private art classes with him. From early on, he would give my sister and me lumps of clay, set us up with paint, and tell us stories. What he really did was engender the imagination for the artist and for art in the world. So I would say that he was the first artist I aspired to be like.

EW: The art influence didn’t come directly from your parents then.

RK: My mother wouldn’t call herself an artist, but she was a fashion designer. She was trained in Stuttgart, which was a fashion centre in her time, and fashion design and dressmaking were very broadly conceived. Fashion designers did a lot of drawing and other crafts. She always had her own studio at home, and her own clients. It wasn’t a fancy design studio, but it was her place.

EW: And it was a creative environment. What about your father?

RK: My father taught English and French and history and later built up a huge exchange program in our high school — in Kirchheim, near Hepsisau. At the edge of the village there was also an anthroposophical home for children with special needs. Camphill is the English name for the remedial stream in anthroposophical education, and that’s where the third early impulse came from. If the first could be my mother — with the impulse of design and sewing and crafts; the second Martin Domke — who later took me on with foundation studies in art; the third came from anthroposophy and Herman Kirchner — who developed form drawing for remedial education. We spent all our seasonal festivals at Michaelshof — the anthroposophical community just outside of Hepsisau, so from that early time onward, we experienced the significance of the seasonal rhythms and knew what winter festivals and summer festivals were.

EW: Was anthroposophy also part of the broader village culture?

RK: It wasn’t necessarily that everybody lived anthroposophically, but there were exchanges and bridges made. If, for example, the anthroposophical community put on a midwinter play like the shepherd’s play, or celebrated the midsummer festivals, they would always extend invitations to the villagers. People from the village worked at Michaelshof and there was an anthroposophical economic factor in Hepsisau — five large buildings and later a large farm.

EW: It sounds like a rural setting touched by avant-garde city influence.

RK: Yes. It was, and is, also a beautiful place. That’s why artists and anthroposophical leaders came after the war and took up building there. There was one building and it was restored and then expanded upon. And through that people came from all over the world to that little place that might have been a dot on the map. It took just a few people who chose to live an alternative lifestyle, and through that decision a whole cultural thing happened.

EW: You were never divorced from broad cultural happenings like Bauhaus by growing up in a small village; in fact, you were very much immersed in them.

RK: Yes, I was exposed to art and culture as a child. But there was the simplicity too, and the primitiveness— if you want to call it that— of the village life. There was farming and some people were farmers. I wouldn’t say there was always the most peaceful situation amongst the villagers. There were jokes about "the people on the hill," but it wasn’t divisive, it was humorous most of the time.

EW: What about the impulse for art as healing? Did that come into your early biography?

RK: The art impulse came in first — because of the influences of my mother and Martin Domke. The healing came in through a brief interlude of sexual abuse when I was nine or ten. I drew naked figures with explicit body parts, and that became a kind of healing. The fact of the abuse was with me as a knowing. I expressed what happened to me in the drawings and I really think that in this way I did my own therapy, so to speak. That’s what "survived me." I mean, more than just "survived me," that’s what helped me integrate the experience.

EW: You’re saying that by expressing what happened to you in drawings — by externalizing the trauma — you were able to heal yourself of it.

RK: Well of course it would have been totally unconscious at the time — at around ten years of age. Sometimes I’m in awe that I would have done those drawings of body parts and postures. But then ten years later — at the turning point of my second decade, I became physically ill with ovarian cysts.

EW: Do you see a connection?

RK: Well, why ovarian cysts? Why there? There could be a connection. And there’s the question of destiny, which you mentioned earlier — what do I already bring, and then what do I attract, or what do I need? What is one’s biography? I think obviously I had a vulnerability in that area, and then I had these experiences. What the early drawings did for me is that they kept the abuse from sinking into oblivion. I didn’t forget it. The memory was present, but it wasn’t present as overwhelming pain. It’s hard to describe it — it was always present. Actually, what was more present in my mind were my drawings, more than the actual physical events. So of course on one level you could say that I dissociated from the physical aspect and associated with my drawings. But through the art I always remembered. I didn’t forget, as so many people do in these situations. I feel what helped me was that I always lived, to a degree, with what I’d experienced.

EW: Did you keep the art?

RK: No. There were other events and I must have had a stash of such drawings and then my mother found them and that was pretty horrifying — maybe that’s why I still had to get the ovarian cysts!

EW: — because the issue in the broader sense was not resolved. Yet, you did externalize the events in your drawings and you did engage in a kind of instinctive therapy.

RK: I did it naturally and unconsciously — I exteriorized. And my art was found. Maybe I wanted people to know. But at that time it wasn’t like now — if a mother would see such drawings she would ask, Why is my ten-year-old daughter drawing such things? Of course now a mother would go to the next step and ask questions. But then nobody inquired. It was just, You’re doing these dirty drawings — that’s how my mother handled it. Then the relationship to this person changed, they moved away. And I stopped drawing.

EW: But you came back to it — and you chose a path of art for healing. Perhaps because what happened to you as a girl came to be so crucial.

RK: It’s phenomenal when you think of it. So much so that I can almost be grateful for it.

EW: Well, in the philosophical sense — in the larger sense in which you can say, Look at how rich my life has become and what I’ve been able to do as a result of these harsh experiences... .

RK: And the next step became very crucial too, very symbolic, because ten years later when I was ill in the hospital, I did another set of drawings. I was recovering from the ovarian cyst operation and at that time they didn’t kick you out after three days. I was in hospital for four weeks. Fortunately the department was full, so they put me into a small room all by myself and I was happy as could be. I had art materials brought in and that’s when I started doing pieces in pastel. They were very bright colours — psychedelic almost. I would do a whole page, cover it with black or brown, and then scrape out lines. So you could say in the end I did drawing again. On top of these underground colours — a primal kind of life force — I put the darkness, and then with a kitchen knife, scraped out images. I brought the colour back in, like retrieving — giving something form. And what did I draw? It wasn’t bodies. They had gone, but the issue, as you say, wasn’t resolved. So ten years later I drew trees. They were all trees, which later I came to see as a kind of symbol of transformation.

EW: This seems to connect to what you said about the scuro part of the name Arscura. It’s like chiaroscuro — light and shade in painting and drawing. You applied the colour — bright colours — hid them by covering them with brown and black, then scraped tree images out of the darkness, out of the hidden thing. And scuro also sounds a little like scrivener — scribe — and scrape. It seems there’s deep biographical significance compressed into this word for you. The Ars — the art part in Arscura, and the curative part, are more obvious. But the scuro seems to be more at the heart of it in a way.

RK: Thank you — yes. The overlapping meaning was always, for me, the more important. People recognize that Arscura is related to the word "cure," but there’s this other energy. And, yes, it derives from my biography.

EW: I’d like to come back to Martin Domke. He was a key force for art in your childhood. And around the time of your illness, you were taking foundation studies with him. Can you speak about this training and the influence of Bauhaus on your path.

RK: I studied art under Domke for one full year every week, from when I was nineteen to twenty and became ill. But then it spread out. It’s quite complicated. There was the early influence, then the formal time, and then as I went into teacher training and later into anthroposophical therapy training, I would see him seasonally — when I came home. We were always in touch and he was in touch with what I was doing. During the formal period, he taught me one-on-one. Then for ten years he taught the Bauhaus foundation course in an art school in Lübeck, in the far north of Germany. I was living in the south west and he would be south only in the summer months, and during that time we would continue some work. The one-on-one studies I did with Domke were Bauhaus-influenced — that is to say, pragmatic. In its beginnings, Bauhaus was socialist leaning, and very critical of high art. It was about art in the world. So it had political as well as cultural impact. Domke felt that anthroposophical art was wishy-washy — too spiritual, too light-filled, too airy, ungrounded. So when I took an anthroposophical direction, he felt, in a way, that I’d been misguided and had wasted my talents. Later, we had a third phase when he recognized what I was doing — when he saw what I was building with Arscura. Domke died about four years ago.

EW: Maybe in the days of your formal training he was thinking of you as a protégée — that he would take you under his wing and school you in Bauhaus and make you into a professional artist.

RK: That’s exactly what he thought. He took a few individuals under his wing, and, as a Master, he had the absolute ability to shape these people and give them direction. I know several who really have become something because they had his foundation. I was one of those people who could have gone that route. But it’s interesting that the first impulse that directed me off that path was my illness, and through that I came more in touch with the anthroposophical stream in my early twenties. Yet the foundation year in Art for Life — what we now do in first year at Arscura — is almost a kind of memory picture of my studies with Domke.

EW: Are you talking about black and white drawing?

RK: The black and white drawing, colour, and form. The Bauhaus foundation looks very different, practically-speaking, as there’s no personal reflection. It’s an exoteric, design kind of base of our first year in Art for Life. What we do is a metamorphosis — the transformation of that process — which means we’re separating out a little bit the focus of the mediums. But of course it’s not only anthroposophical art or Bauhaus — traditionally in academic training you draw first, then you learn about colour, and then you learn about form, even if you never touch clay.

EW: Yet you put much more emphasis on process, and on the continuity of one medium and mode into the other.

RK: Yes, so you could call the one the outward aspect. The inner aspect, for me, came through anthroposophy and the whole idea of threefoldness — thinking, feeling and willing — that then I connected much more to the art-making. But I have to weave into this my later training in Ottersberg, when the transformational aspect became conscious. Still, what we have at Arscura — and I could say what I added at the risk of being condemned by both Bauhaus and anthroposophy — is our focus on inner personal development. Because that was neither here nor there. In the Bauhaus you didn’t talk about your own feelings — Bauhaus is a modern art approach designed to become enterprise, real work, and you take yourself out of the process. You also take yourself out for the most part in the anthroposophical approach — traditionally you look much more at the spiritual objective in art. So the important thing for me in Arscura training has always been to try to find something that made space for processing and transforming one’s own stuff.

Bauhaus gave me the tools — it’s the skeleton and it was my foundation. From the anthroposophical training alone I never would have learned to properly draw or to really properly look at the material and love the material and pull out of the material. The anthroposophical is the fleshing out, and Arscura now is about how to bring that to the human being. How does that now not just become outer art, but how does that now become a tool for people who come to Arscura to live with. It takes the emphasis away from only focusing on the product. In Arscura, I take myself on a journey, and then the outcome is not just an outer beauty.

EW: The outcome becomes more meaningful.

RK: It becomes meaningful, thank you. Exactly. Without obsessing on what it is for me. You know that — we always try to find the balance and we do try to find that objective too. What does an art piece also mean for having it in the world — its effect in a wider sense.

EW: At Arscura, students are taught to really observe, to get beyond reactivity and interpretation and let the work itself speak. Did that come out of Bauhaus?

RK: No. That came later. So maybe just a final word about Bauhaus. In Bauhaus training, you started, of course, with drawing, and drawing would start with a line. And you would draw a line — a hundred lines — until you could draw a living line, a line that isn’t dead, so it has breath.

EW: It’s technique-oriented.

RK: Absolutely. In its own way it has a feeling to it, too, but it’s out there, it’s objective. You would draw horizontal lines for three days, and a theme could be bringing six vertical and two horizontal lines to a relationship. Doing sixty of such compositions is a real discipline. There’s a richness to exploring a purely visual effect.

EW: It almost sounds like some of the Steiner meditation exercises.

RK: It can be meditational. And then you have these sixty different meditations and they become like variations on a theme. It’s the power of a visual, qualitative expression.

EW: Is art still taught this way in Germany?

RK: Not much. When Domke stopped it was out of frustration — because schools did away with foundation studies as he and those of his generation taught it. Foundation studies in German art schools changed in the mid-seventies as a result of the new thinking on experimental and free art. People didn’t value the really in-depth drawing and building up — the meticulous, methodical exploration of visual form — but this is the training I received. This kind of objectivity also can be seen in Kandinsky’s study, Concerning the Spiritual in Art, and that was the text for colour. So colour wasn’t so much the free-flowing emotional colour; it was also applied as a given form. And then we did clay, and Domke really felt that I should go into three-dimensional form. I did these huge vessels — torso-like, body-like, and double vases. And of course as it was under his guidance, I did feel a little like an extension of him. But it was exceptional, really wonderful. I often thought later that I’d love to go for a year back to Domke, but it never happened.

EW: What happened after that year of intensive training with Martin Domke?

RK: I entered teacher training to become a public school teacher — under the influence of my father. That was also a natural next step. Then during teacher’s training, I became more interested in the anthrosophical stream — one of the professors was actually an anthroposophist, though not outspokenly. The decisive book for us at that time was Steiner’s The Education of the Child — we started a little study group. And it wasn’t even so much the book, but that he, the professor, embodied the ideals for us who were students of pedagogy and future school teachers.

EW: So on top of the Bauhaus influence came anthroposophy, which had been part of your childhood rhythm as well.

RK: I loved the clarity and precision of Bauhaus, also the philosophy — the way it was in the early last century with its hopefulness, the left leaning. It was an innovative part of Weimar. And of course I grew up through the ‘60s and ‘70s and there was also that flare of free spirit. There was a vibration of the whole philosophy of the modern artist and the artist serving an innovative spirit in the world. There was an idealism that came with it. And that, of course, in a totally different way, is also the way with anthroposophy — there is a huge ideal. In Bauhaus it was more earthy — to make a better world, equal rights for everyone. Anthroposophy added a more refined kind of picture. They’re different — in a way they’re like two sides of a coin. I grew easily into this as a teenager — the social leaning, the equality thing.

When anthroposophy came to the fore, it was around my twenty-one year mark, with the conscious Ego coming in, and at the time I met my own peer group in anthroposophy. We went to a summer conference in Stuttgart on Waldorf education and that brought anthroposophy to me in the pedagogical sense. We were two-to-three hundred young people who came to this conference and it was fantastic for us to hear these lectures by anthroposophists like Georg Leber and Johannes Tautz — Waldorf teachers with great charisma. It was a next step. This was the mid-‘70s — I was twenty-two in 1974. That was a crucial time — between twenty-two and twenty-five. I really dove into anthroposophy.

EW: You must have read the basic Steiner texts then —The Philosophy of Freedom, Theosophy, Knowledge of Higher Worlds and its Attainment….

RK: Absolutely. We would have study groups at 5:00 in the morning because at 9:00 school would start. It was an amazing time.

EW: Were you planning on teaching at a Waldorf school?

RK: No, not at the time, because I was still in the mainstream, and I had the prospect of a good job after my internship. In fact, when I turned it down everybody stood on their heads.
EW: So upon graduating from mainstream teacher’s training, you knew you wanted to take a different path.

RK: Yes, at that time it was as clear as a bell. Rather than entering the classroom after teachers’ training, I decided to continue studying art at the Fachhochschule in Ottersberg. In a way you could say that I did the same thing over again, but with an anthroposophical philosophy. It was another art training — that could lead into art therapy, or fine art, or pedagogical art — those were the three streams. But it was a four-year program. I was twenty-four and I was basically ready to go into the workforce and then I decided to turn around and go into this new training. But it was also on my journey, or in my biography. It was a whole other thing — because I went from south Germany to north Germany

EW: Is that such a big geographical change?

RK: Huge.

EW: How so?

RK: Geographically, when you go from the south to the north you go from an area where the hills and the beautiful landscapes and the culture change. Everything slopes down and becomes flat. The northern part of Germany next to the Northern Sea, the Baltic Sea — this whole area over to Holland becomes very flat, and that as a picture, when you add the judgment to it, is flat. There are the big cities like Bremen and Hamburg and Lübeck in the far north, but the countryside is much less populated, less developed. Barren, flat and agricultural — backward. For me it was a discovery, and I loved it, because it created a freedom space.

EW: And you were there for four years.

RK: Altogether I was there for more than four, and from there I came here — when I was thirty.

EW: Was the geography itself part of your Ottersberg education?

RK: A large part. I’ve often said that for me to be in north Germany before coming here was a real stepping stone — because when people first come to Canada they talk about the size and the expanse and the sky. But in a small way that’s what I saw when I got out of the south with its greenness and density and rolling hills and its deep cultural past. I came to the north and it was basically empty. Of course there were the teachers too, like Heinrich Mikosch. He was Austrian — and Steiner was Austrian — and he, Mikosch, was just wonderful. He started us with drawing and sent us back to the land. He also really individualized his assignments. He sent me out for days into these cow meadows, to the land going down to the water where everything happens on the horizon. There are maybe two tiny little things on the horizon. Endless road leading to wood or something. Huge sky. This is the total difference from the south to the north.

EW: What stream were you in at Ottersberg?

RK: Everyone did the foundation year. Then we chose between sculpture or painting. I wanted to go into sculpture based on the pots I’d done with Domke. But destiny brought it that my sculpture teacher left and I didn’t connect with the one who replaced him. So I took a term off and switched streams. Part of why I was at Ottersberg for so long was that I didn’t do the four years continuously. I did two years and then I set out, and then I went back, and then I was here in Canada for a year — my first year here was in Peterborough.

EW: Why Peterborough?!

RK: After two years of study we were supposed to do two practicums— one pedagogical and one therapeutic. Because I’d worked in a clinic, I’d done the therapeutic practicum. I didn’t want to do a pedagogical one because I’d already finished training to be a public school teacher. What I really wanted was to do an artistic practicum. And I wanted to find something preferably outside of Germany. I’d come from the south to the north, and now the north was too small. I felt I needed to get out into the world. So I thought — where and how can I do an artistic practicum with someone who knows enough anthroposophy that it’s recognized by Ottersberg.

It happened through my painting teacher, Edith Schaar, who was also a textile artist and had a subscription to a magazine called Textile Art. There she found an article about an artist who was looking for an assistant for a very large project that she was about to begin in this town — Peterborough, Ontario. Edith knew I was looking for something and told me about the opening. I had no idea where Peterborough was and no particular interest in North America. Canada wasn’t even on the map in my consciousness. But it happened very quickly — I saw the article in the fall of 1978 and in January, 1979 I flew on Freddy Laker, on a standby ticket, from Frankfurt nach New York, sat there in the airport for six hours, and then flew to Toronto. The artist — Friedel — picked me up at the airport here and we drove to Peterborough. As it turned out, she knew something about anthroposophy, but not very much, and she’d chosen me because she wanted to learn more about anthroposophy!

EW: So the practicum was working both ways.

RK: It was working both ways — perfect! It also turned out that she wasn’t a full-time artist. She earned her living in a day job, so from the beginning she laid out all the work for me and another art student to do in the daytime. Then when we started the weaving, she would join us in the evening. I arrived in January and was supposed to be there for three months only. Instead I stayed from January 1979, to mid-January 1980.

EW: So half way through your schooling in Ottersberg, you had to do a practicum that brought you to Canada. Then you went back and you were there for a few more years.

RK: I was there for two-and-a-half more years. I went back to Germany in 1980 and graduated in the summer of 1982. And when I went back, I really dug in. I wanted to finish and then get some professional experience, so I went to the Lucas Clinic in Dornach, Arlesheim, Switzerland. I’d seen some possibilities here in Canada and I knew I wanted to come back here, but after my training, I worked — first in the summer for three months in Lahnstein for Internal Disease near Koblenz and then at the Lucas Clinic. You could say that was the first time I really worked. Up until then I went to school.

EW: Did you envision establishing an art school here in Canada, kindred to the one in Ottersberg?

RK: Kindred, yes, but with a metamorphosis. It was interesting, though, because in the year I came here to work with Friedel, I thought — it’s all about art. I wanted to be exposed to art. And because she worked in the daytime, as I said, I stepped in for her. The project was a large tapestry piece — 12 by 20 feet. It was a community project, and of course I’d studied the threefold social order — Steiner’s idea about working together in community — but in our movement, as in any movement, you know how very difficult it is to work together. Then I came to Peterborough and this community really did work together — in practice — without any kind of directive from a philosophical idea. The purpose was to create this piece for the church altar. My task was to teach and instruct and facilitate fifty volunteers to card the wool, to dye the wool, to spin the wool, and that’s what we did. Friedel had this twelve-foot-wide loom built in her studio. Only three people actually wove the tapestry hands-on, but a huge body of people contributed to different aspects of the production. Nobody knew about anthroposophy and the threefold social order. And it worked!

EW: Did you bring anthroposophical ideas to the group?

RK: That was my step — here I was just going for art now for once in my placement and the pedagogy came right in. And what started it was an interesting thing. First of all, it was in that year that I learned somewhat decently to speak English, but I had to teach from the beginning. So I had to learn — and in the night I would read the dictionary and find the words for what I had to say the next day, including anthroposophy. So this also seems to be a destiny step — because when you ask, Did I want to start an art school? Yes, I did — though not necessarily here. But here it happened that people somehow wanted to hear something about the spiritual in art, and whether it was my enthusiasm or my naiveté, people responded to what I brought. And that’s really what started this whole process.

EW: How did you end up in Toronto?

RK: The connection in Peterborough gave rise to a connection with a psychology student who became a close friend and was fascinated by my espousing philosophy. We stayed in touch and he came to Germany to visit me during the two years I was back there completing my diploma. He helped arrange for me to give a summer course at the Rudolf Steiner Centre — in the summer of 1981. That was my first teaching course here. I taught a one-week painting course on the planets while I was still in my final year at Ottersberg. People loved what I brought and through that I established something here in the city.

EW: So you gave this course in 1981, graduated from Ottersberg in 1982, and emigrated here 1983 — as you already had the connection in Toronto.

RK: I had the connection to the fledgling Steiner Centre, which was on Prince Arthur Avenue at the time. In the fall of 1983, I taught the art component in the Foundation Studies program there. From there the Steiner Centre moved to Bedford Park United Church in the Lawrence and Yonge area, and when the Thornhill Waldorf School built an extension in 1989-90, the Centre bought into the school and has been there since.

EW: That’s where I first experienced your work — in a four-week evening course. The pieces are falling into place — and after you got that first teaching position with the Rudolf Steiner Centre, you set up your own studio....

RK: Yes, I rented a beautiful space at The Church of St. Mary the Virgin — on Westmoreland Avenue, near Bloor. Then that space became too small and for one year I had a bigger studio on College Street at Bathurst. It was there that I did the first Arscura year — the foundation year — in 1989-90. Out of the twelve people in the program, eight or nine were coming from uptown. So at the end of the year, when they all expressed an interest in continuing, I moved uptown to the Hesperus building on the campus of the Thornhill Waldorf School in Thornhill, and ran courses there for a number of years.

In 1991, I took a sabbatical and went to Santa Fe. That opened up my forties and catapulted me into a very unsettled five years or so. Long story short, there was a lot of travel. I started a connection to the Tobias School of Art &Therapy in West Sussex in England. I also started a Lugano connection in 1993-94. I stayed in England from 1994-96. But during those years, I was constantly on the move between England, the continent — Lugano in Italy — and here. And I was still flying to Santa Fe, too, because I’d started giving workshops the year I was there. I put my stuff in storage in 1993 thinking it would be there over the summer only and it was in storage for four years! At the end of that, in1996, my colleagues at Tobias asked me to lead a revision of the school’s curriculum. Professionally, this would have been the thing to do — as it was really at the core of the anthroposophical work. They asked me to do it, and I could have done it. But I was then forty-five and it gave me such a shock to think that I would have to make a five-year commitment. When I saw the contract, I said, I need to think about this. In five years I’m going to be fifty. Where do I want to be when I’m fifty?

EW: And you didn’t want to be in England.

RK: I didn’t want to be in England. It was a real turning-point...

Part Three of Elana Wolff's interview with Regine Kurek be on Open Book on January 15th.

Elana Wolff has published three collections of poetry with Guernica: Birdheart (2001); Mask (2003); You Speak to Me in Trees (2006), winner of the 2008 F.G. Bressani Prize for Poetry. She is also co-author with the late Malca Litovitz, of Slow Dancing: Creativity and Illness, Duologue and Rengas (Guernica, 2008). Implicate Me: Short Essays on Contemporary Poems is forthcoming with Guernica in spring 2010. Elana divides her time between writing, editing and facilitating therapeutic art.


Elana and Regine, thank you. What a team you both are! Regine, thank you for sharing yourself so deeply. With both your words, I have been given the gift of looking through the window into the life of a woman I deeply respect. A woman who has given me tools, shared knowledge and experience with love and great enthusiasm and truth. Arscura for me is like remembering the forgotten pieces of the puzzle of life that I have been searching and longing for deep inside. I am slowly becoming grateful for this magical JOURNEY we are sharing in the moments we are alone with our self and together. A journey with its darkness, light and everything inbetween. I am this journey and this journey is me. Can't wait to read more.

My husband and I were recently in New York, where among other things, we took in the Bauhaus exhibit at MoMA and the huge Kandinsky retrospective at The Guggenheim. Having just completed this interview with Regine, I was struck by the fortuitous timing of our visit. The Bauhaus vision that Regine describes here came alive for me and I was delighted to see the work of Oskar Schlemmer, the Bauhaus founder who taught Regine's teacher/mentor, Martin Domke. I was even more enthralled by Kandinsky's magnificent oil paintings-- to see up-close and personally how Steiner's ideas on the spiritual in art are captured in moving and stirring colour and form. I came to appreciate, anew, the richness of training and heritage that Regine has brought to Canada, and infuses with her own innovative brilliance at Arscura. Thank you, Karen, for pointing to this aspect of Regine's story.


This part of your article not only further introduces us to the life and work of Regine, but to German art and culture. It is very rich.


As Regine indicates, the foundation year in Art for Life at Arscura is almost a memory picture of her one-on-one studies with Bauhaus Master, Martin Domke. So the first term -- Black and White Drawing-- does indeed bring down and preserve some of the discipline and precision and objectivity of Bauhaus, yet with more of a focus on personal process and transformation, which is the healing aspect.
Thank you for foregrounding the 'living line', Dorothy.

I am fascinated by the idea of drawing a line one hundred times in order to try and get the life sense of the line. This would be such a discipline. Is art no longer taught this way? There is a connection for me with the discipline of art and the healing aspect.It is also in Regine's biography.

I have read part two and am most fascinated that a young child of nine years old, has the intuitive ability to self-heal by drawing.

Beautifully put, Melanie-- "predetermination" may be a strong word, yet there is something compelling about the idea that individuals find their path from the signposts of events in their lives. There is what appears to be random, unjust, or cruel, and then there is guidance, choice, and will.

I am fascinated with Regine's story and the destiny path that her life has taken. If there is a predetermination in the course of events of one's life, then Regine's biography is a clear illustration of this. From the event that changed her life and pointed her in this particular direction, to the key people and mentors who helped to mold and fashion her. She listened to her destiny and followed her call. And the result of all of this, of her life's work is a fabulous school!

You've pinpointed what seemed to be key for Regine in healing her trauma from childhood sexual abuse, Vibeke-- that is, keeping the memory of the abuse 'alive', as a young girl, through spontaneous drawings of postures and body parts. Regine speaks of how her early drawings were a kind of instinctive therapy, how "they kept the abuse from sinking into oblivion," so that she didn't forget it, and was not later faced with having to integrate dark memories. The memory was always present, but not as overwhelming pain. I, too, found this insight fascinating, when I first heard it from Regine, and have come increasingly to appreciate its wisdom.

I enjoyed following this interview. Part one and Part two were very interesting. Following the thread of healing and art through Regine's life was fascinating especially the abuse issue. Doing the art seemed to keep it transparent, not allowing it to go 'underground' in her life. I though Elana's questions and comments drew Regine out in a way that made for interesting reading.

Related item from our archives

JF Robitaille: Minor Dedications


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