When Lucille Atlookan was diagnosed with lupus, she kept the information mostly to herself.
‘It’s a silent disease,” said the third-year fine arts and education student at Lakehead University.
“You can’t even tell I am sick. In my first year, it was so bad with the swelling on my kidney, I had to go to the hospital for treatment and I didn’t tell anybody about my struggle.”
Instead, she channelled her feelings into her art.
Some of Atlookan’s work is now on display at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery as part of the Lakehead University visual arts department’s annual Student Juried Exhibition.
Her art piece, Self-Portrait/Lupus, is one of the first you see walking into the exhibit and it’s a project consisting of three embroidery hoops.
The first hoop features a kidney made of felt with some beads depicting the damaged area of the organ. The second shows hands beading a small kidney shape onto a moccasin and the third hoop is embroidered pill bottles.
The second image shows how lupus can affect other conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, which Atlookan said she was diagnosed with more than eight years ago.
And the third shows all the medications she needs to halt the disease.
Another artist featured in the Juried Exhibition is Katy Poirier, a second-year fine arts student from Atikokan.
Coming from a smaller community to attend school in Thunder Bay can make Poirier homesick at times and she portrayed those feelings through her ceramic piece, 52 Pick Up.
The piece looks as though someone has thrown a deck of cards at the wall, with some of the cards sticking to the wall and others falling to the ground
“I play a lot of cards with my family at home and when I’m here in the city going to school, I don’t see them and I don’t get to play cards and spend that time with my close friends and family where we’re just having fun,” said Poirier. “It’s like a sort of displacement.”
For Poirier, having her work on display at the art gallery is a valued opportunity.
“It just looks amazing and makes you feel proud of what you’ve done in the program,” she said. “I don’t think this will ever look this beautiful again because it’s got such a space to be seen.”
Fourth-year student Claire Everett agreed it’s great having a piece in the juried show and noted the diversity in artwork displayed by the students.
Her painting, Thirst Trap, explores feminist issues, specifically how women are portrayed in society.
“Society perceives women to be passive and fragile and this is also evident in biological research I found,” said Everett. “I created a painting that looks fragile — soft, bright colours that draws the viewer in but then you can see there are words in the painting that suggest otherwise.”
“Sexist” and “My body, my choice” are some of the words that can be seen when taking a closer look at Thirst Trap.
The LU Student Juried Exhibition runs until March 25.