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Obituary

BRUCE HEAD (published on January 09, 2010)



BRUCE HEAD, R.C.A. Nationally-renowned Canadian artist Bruce Head, R.C.A., died of complications from long-term diabetes and congestive heart failure, on Wednesday, December 30, 2009 in the intensive care unit at St. Boniface Hospital, the same hospital where he was born 78 years earlier on February 14, 1931. During those 78 years, Bruce cut a wide swath through life, gathering dozens of close friends and becoming a significant Western Canadian contemporary artist. Mourning his loss are his life partner of 33 years Judy Waytiuk, children Glenn, Grant and partner Sandra, Ian, Toni and husband Graham Cox, and Tara, as well as first wife Verona, grandchildren Austin, Aidan, Sydney, Kirsten, Erika, Cameron, Cade, and Emmaso, favourite sister-in-law Barbara Head and nephews Kevin and Colin, and hundreds of members of Manitoba's arts community whose lives he touched profoundly. Bruce's life revolved completely around his art and his relationships with people, whether family, friends, or art students he taught over the years. Not too long ago, Bruce told a young aspiring painter, You're not becoming an artist. You are an artist. You're born with it. And he was born with it. He began drawing and sketching as an elementary school student in central Winnipeg, and graduated from the University of Manitoba's School of Art in 1953, one of a half-dozen talented young artists whose work sparked a dramatic surge of interest in contemporary art on Canada's Prairies and a fresh, Prairie-based visual movement. As a graphic designer for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for more than 30 years, he brought bold energy and confident strength to his work -- energy and strength that emerged consistently from the canvasses and sculptures he produced while at the CBC as well as during the early, extended retirement that enabled him to paint and sculpt full-time for some 25 years, in the large, light-filled studio his son Glenn built for him and Judy onto their home in St. Vital. Today, his work is represented in hundreds of private and public Canadian collections, ranging from personal collections to the National Gallery of Canada. But ordinary Winnipeggers see Bruce's vibrant art daily as they go about their lives in the city. Many of his major pieces hang in public spaces in Manitoba, from corporate head offices, country clubs, and government of Manitoba lobbies, to the unique circular concrete wall in the underground concourse at Portage and Main. More than four hundred feet in circumference, the piece remains the largest concrete form created by an artist in Canada. Bruce was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy in the early 1970s, at the time the youngest Manitoban to be elected. In November 2008 he was celebrated with a major life retrospective at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, the largest one-man show the Gallery has mounted. Headspace, curated by friend and colleague Amy Karlinsky, covered major aspects of his life in art, back to the early 1950s and into his most recent work. A simultaneously-published book, co-written by Karlinsky and Bruce's long-time friend and art historian Patricia Bovey, analyzed and documented the exhibition works. Bruce's natural curiosity and the pure delight with which he embraced his world sparked a routine befriending of people , neighbours, colleagues, and people encountered when he and Judy spent time together travelling around Western Canada and, in winter, in the Caribbean and in Mexico. He accepted and appreciated these friends simply for what and who they were, never judging, always drawing pleasure from their lives and personalities. A natural story-teller, Bruce's tales always grew more convoluted with their re-telling, and you never knew what would change in the story from one time to the next. His most enduring friendships were with fellow artists, especially Winston Leathers, Peter McConville, and Frank Mikuska, and with many golfing buddies- golf being about the only thing that could pull him away from sculpting in the backyard on a sunny summer day. But the number of people to whom Bruce was a friend is uncountable. He treasured every one of you, and Judy's grief at losing her soulmate has been soothed by your gentle support. Some say you can judge a man's character by how close his pets are to him. When naptime came, the household's various cats over the decades routinely piled on to keep him company, and there was always a worshiping dog stationed happily beside Bruce as he painted: steadfast, loyal black lab Sheba, then beloved husky Bo, who throughout his entire life remained glued to Bruce's side, and finally adoring cockapoo Wizzo. They knew, as we all did, that this was the sort of man who comes into our lives perhaps once in a lifetime, if we're lucky. We were incredibly lucky to have known Bruce Head. A memorial service will be held at the Winnipeg Art Gallery on February 10, 2010, at 7:00 p.m. in the Muriel Richardson Auditorium, with a gathering to follow in the gallery foyer, when his life will be celebrated with selected works hanging in the Skylight area of the Galleries floor. In the meantime, it would please him deeply if friends were to donate to the Canadian Diabetes Association, 200-310 Broadway, Winnipeg, Manitoba R3C 0S6 or to the Winnipeg Humane Society, 45 Hurst Way, Winnipeg, Manitoba R3T 0R3 in his memory. Thomson In the ParK 925-1120 Condolences may be sent to www.thomsoninthepark.com


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