Enter the dragon

Massive tile mosaic a healing venture for Kamloops man

The artist leaned forward and gazed for a moment at the photograph on the coffee table.

"This dragon . . . ," began David Morrison, as he ran a finger over the image of a Japanese-inspired mosaic, ". . . Mental illness is like a dragon you fight - and, so, you have to be just as fierce in taking care of yourself and your spirit."

Morrison, 59, knows a few things about fighting mental illness. He has battled depression ever since 1973 when a car accident left him with a severe head injury.

"I hit a windshield at 65 miles an hour and went around for a year and a half in and out of amnesia," said the Kamloops resident.

"I would wake up somewhere and wouldn't know who I was."

It led to decade in prison and another 10 years drifting the countryside, doing odd jobs as a handyman.

Morrison said the one thing that propelled him through his darkest hours was art.

"Art has always helped me," he said, as he explained how a massive tile mosaic on display at the Kamloops ReStore came to be.

The piece is the size of a sheet of plywood and depicts a fierce dragon - eyes wide and claws extended - against an elaborately detailed outdoor backdrop.

"This is everybody's ideas and everybody's thoughts," said Morrison.

"We wanted to tell a story and create a work of art that maybe we could use to make some money for the clubhouse."

Morrison is a member of the Canadian Mental Health Association's Clubhouse at 857 Seymour St.

The clubhouse is a safe haven for people with mental illness. It provides social and recreational opportunities and encourages community integration.

For eight months, Morrison and more than 60 clubhouse members pieced together scraps of donated tiles to create their mosaic masterpiece - with the idea that it would eventually be auctioned with all proceeds going back to the clubhouse.

"I wanted to do something good with it because art had always helped me," said Morrison.

"And the Clubhouse helped me out quite a bit. The people there are fantastic. The staff, the members."

Over the next several weeks, the 300-lb artwork will be on display at the various businesses that played a part in its creation.

Its next stop will be The Home Depot.

Details of the auction have yet to be worked out. There is also talk of touring the piece to other cities.

In the meantime, the artwork has already achieved a purpose - one that can't be measured in dollars.

"I think the biggest thing that we all seem to suffer (with mental illness) is our self-worth," said Morrison.

"This is what I'm trying to fix through art. We've got to inspire, creative inspiration working hand-in-hand."

litt@kamloopsnews.ca

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