January 05, 2013
Four-year-old Joshua and his mother Candis Marshall are more than excited about their first joint fine art photography exhibition. Last night marked the opening of "Dieing To Be Beautiful: A Conversation Between A Mother And Son Through Photography After His Near Death Experience" at the Hillside House Gallery on Cumberland Street. Since he was nine months, Joshua has been a brain box, learning at a rate parents barely dream their children can learn. His mother said he would stay up late at night watching CNN, BBC and Bloomberg, just absorbing the information and letting the stories consume him.
Candis was inspired by her son, who she said "had so much insight into life" and loved visiting the Bahamas National Trust and experiencing nature. Shortly after he turned one, he was diagnosed with epilepsy and according to Candis, each seizure seemed to take a little away from him in terms of his abilities. "We would have to re-teach him to do certain things," she said. It came to a point where she was afraid that one day a seizure would just wipe his slate clean. By the end of that year, her worst fears nearly came true.
Joshua experienced a major seizure that affected his speech and coordination and his ability to communicate. Though his mind was still processing at the same rate, he could not convey his thoughts and needs the way he had become accustomed. "That experience changed our lives," said the single mother. At the time, Candis owned a beauty supply store, which she decided to sell because she realized that life was not about money or surviving, but rather about living and experiencing life. She sold her business and used the money, along with grants and scholarships, to pay off Joshua's medical bills and her divorce. She then applied for her second Self Starter grant in order to become a photographer and professional artist.
It was through photography that Candis found a way for her son to communicate. With his camera, Joshua would take a photograph of what he wanted to say and after a while, he learned how to explain the photograph and what he was trying to convey. Since then, Joshua seems to have made an amazing recovery. His mother is currently writing a book about him called "I am Peter Parker", stemming from his fascination with Spiderman's alias, Peter Parker, the photographer with superhuman abilities. She said his other heroes include the biblical King David and fathers in general, anxious for the day he can grow up and be a great father himself.
At four, Candis said Joshua is looking forward to his first show, which features many everyday objects, especially nature, which conveys concepts like survival, karma, life, responsibility and emotion. "He's excited; he wants people to see his work... and he wants to make some money," she said. Little Joshua already has a list of things he needs to buy in order to continue doing his work. He told his mother that he needs to buy canvas, paint, a new camera, a laptop (though he does not yet know how to use one), a printer and a little bit of candy.
Through this exhibition, Candis hopes to change people's mindsets about what is possible and the opportunities available to them, in addition to encouraging parents, single mothers in particular, to look into their children and listen to them in order to facilitate their development. She hopes that schools will bring their students to the exhibition and that social programs like PACE will bring their young people to see what she and her son have accomplished. It is her goal to set up a website for parents to see what free art and social programs are available for their children to facilitate their development.
She is abundantly proud that in addition to the exhibition, Joshua will also be featured as a contributing photographer in the winter edition of Profiles98 magazine. According to Hillside House gallery owner Antonius Roberts, "All proceeds [from the exhibition] will go towards the work that Candis aspires to do in terms of using photography as a means of communicating with kids and kids who might have a learning disability, helping them to learn, to understand, to develop. "So for me as an artist and as a former teacher, I just thinking it is a brilliant message to send to the public.
With all the problems that we have going on in this country, maybe the creative medium could be one way of tacking some of our concerns, some of our issues, some of our learning disabilities. For kids who may not have great social skills, maybe through the power of art, we can transform the lives of so many. "We're hoping that [Candis] will be able to share her story as a woman [and] share her story as a mother... and we can learn a lot more about [Joshua] as we investigate, explore or connect with this exhibition and the works that are presented." The Antonius Roberts Studio and Gallery at Hillside House is open everyday except Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. "Dieing To Be Beautiful" will be on display until Thursday, January 31.
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