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The Quiet Rebuild looks at human resilience in healing after tragedy

Fabian Gonzalez
Gateway Writer
Oct 23, 2013

The Quiet Rebuild
By Alexis Marie Chute
Runs from Thursday, Oct. 24 – Friday, Nov. 29
Harcourt House (10215 112 St.)

For Alexis Marie Chute, a young woman who lost her son on the day of his birth, the journey to recover her identity as a mother and artist has been long and arduous. But as her new Harcourt House exhibit, The Quiet Rebuild, demonstrates, the resiliency and vitality of the human spirit can endure through times of adversity.

The upcoming exhibit is a multimedia project that explores how after experiencing loss, people have the strength to rebuild their lives. It’s a resiliency she experienced firsthand when she lost her son Zachary three years ago. The victim of a tumor that grew on top of his heart, extinguishing his life soon after his birth, the experience gave Chute barely enough time to hold him in her arms before he passed. All encompassing distress and grief followed, sinking her into a year where she tried anything and everything to distract herself. But when she found out she was pregnant again, she realized that she needed to find a way to come to terms with her loss.

“After I got pregnant with my son Eden, after the year of distraction, I realized, ‘Oh my goodness, I have to work through my grief, I can’t pass it on to this child.’ I didn’t want to be a mother that is always grieving over the loss of Zachary,” Chute says. “I realized that I’d better focus on trying to find healing.”

Her method for moving forward was to immerse herself in art. Her earliest projects in her healing journey were wood sculptures — composed from the remains of burnt forests to signify rebirth.
“I took a lot of inspiration from what’s left after forest fires, and how life comes through the ashes of a forest. I thought about the analogy with the human spirit, about how after losing something we have the resiliency and the strength to rebuild our lives,” she says.

After finding some peace through her wooden sculptures, Chute applied for the Artist-in-residence position at Harcourt House, where she could work to benefit both herself and the community. Throughout the past year in this position, she has come in contact with Edmontonians whose stories, like her own, exemplify the strength of the human spirit and its power to rebuild after great tragedy. Through the use of various mediums — from sculpture to poetry to painting to photography — she showcases abstract pieces and stories that contain this message.

“When you see someone that has gone through a similar (tragic) situation, there’s an instant camaraderie,” she says. “For this exhibition, I photographed people going through a difficult divorce, and someone who lost their best friend in a fire and another couple who had their baby die.”

Though Chute says that losing Zachary was and still is immensely difficult, finding a voice and the ability to help other people through their struggles has been a powerful gift. The insights arising from her journey through loss, desolation and rebirth form the core of The Quiet Rebuild.

“What I’ve learned is not that we all grieve in the same way, but that the act of grieving is universal. And even though we all grieve for different things, the desire to get over it and be strong is present in all of us,” Chute says.

“The will to survive is strong in humans and that’s what I want to show in my work.”


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