Ava Lee Millman Fisher
MTA, BMT, LMus, AMus, DipEd
Today, February 7th, I announce with exuberance that I am celebrating my 75th Birthday! This milestone provides me with the perfect ambiance for reflection and contemplation. As I drift back in time, and survey my life’s herstory, I believe that the visual arts represent the culmination of one of the ultimate aspirations and desires of my existential self. It appears that being a dedicated and devoted visual artist allows me the luxury of bringing all that I am, and all that I know, to my artwork.
As a young child, it was recognized that I exhibited an obvious delight in all matters artistic which were then known to me. I was encouraged to study piano, ballet, drama, and painting. With maturation, I continued to demonstrate a developing interest in the arts, and passionately pursued these in the spirit of adventure and exploration. From an early age, my growing acquaintance within the realm of music allowed for the development of a keen ear. Shortly thereafter, this included a keen eye – in the areas of concept, of contrast, of proportion, of symmetry, and of colour.
This occurred within the background of a warm and loving Jewish home, and this was not lost upon me. My grandparents were Jewish immigrants from Russia and Poland; I grew up understanding the struggles of being a foreigner in a new land with little comprehension of the English language. I understood that many of our relatives had perished in the Holocaust. As the children of immigrants, life was not a playground for my parents either, yet they worked diligently to provide a strong Jewish environment, and much more than the basic necessities of life, for their three children. As a result, I studied my past with an emphasis which was constantly alive to both my religion and my culture. I comprehended that it was incumbent upon me to have knowledge of our long story of pain and persecution so that I would be able to pass it along to future generations. I have no doubt that this played a strong role in shaping my personhood. Recently, I enrolled in Ancestry DNA. The results speak of me being 100% Jewish. I am now attempting to fathom the deep meaning of this.
My takeaway from this is that my life’s desire and decision as a concerned individual were, and are, to live life as an art form, and to make artistic use of the materials to which I have access. This includes creating form and attempting to be true in expressing the feelings of mankind; the first being in the realm of construction, and the second, in the realm of content. This conscious choice of values was acknowledged by the Jewish organization N’Shei Chabad, when I was presented with an award for “ENRICHING THE WORLD”. This states, in part: “pays tribute to Ava Lee Millman Fisher, whose talents and creative expression have enriched our world, and who has used her divine gift to give of her time, energy, and creativity to the enhancement of the Jewish community and her country.” Also, a few years ago, I was honoured to have my Herstory included in the book, “LIVING LEGACIES: A Collection of Narratives by Contemporary Canadian Jewish Women”.
I am elated to have worn a number of varied hats during my professional career. Upon graduation in vocal performance from McGill University’s Faculty of Music, I sang in numerous performances and recitals; I specialized in Opera and the Art Song. Later, I added Hebrew and Yiddish music to my repertoire. I also graduated from MacDonald College (the teaching college of McGill University), and taught music within the school system in Montreal and Vancouver. Later (when all four of my sons were in school full-time), I returned to Capilano University to study for a degree and accreditation in Music Therapy. I practiced as an accredited music therapist, with adults who suffered from chronic and severe mental illness and with children who had unique and special needs, for about thirty years. All the while, I took art classes and lessons, and never ceased painting!
Today I create because I must! From as far back as I am able to recall, this has been, and remains, a deep-seated passion. However, I feel it is important to emphasize that my journey has encompassed not only my many years of involvement in the visual arts, but also my numerous years of training, discipline, and experience as a musician in general and a lirico-spinto soprano in particular. I believe my visual voice is embedded and embodied within my artwork. It is the physiological gift of synaesthesia, which allows me to see music and to hear art.
Watercolour, acrylic, alcohol ink, encaustic, and mixed media are my milieux of choice. It is within these media that I am best able to visually express the ebb and flow of music. More often than not, during the creative process, I glean great inspiration from listening to classical music, or to that from the enormous and varied repertoire of Hebrew and Yiddish music. I frequently interpret and nuance my visual works in musical terminology – a bit more forte here; a little less legato there.
I find the act of creating to be most spiritual by its very nature. I feel transported both in time and space as I attempt to create my personal visual statement of colour, tone, texture, and shape. I strive to impart a sense of transformation to the essence of the viewer, and not merely a transformation to the viewer’s knowledge. And yet, when all is said and done, I must acknowledge that my greatest creative projects and artistic accomplishments to date are my four sons – and by extension, my grandchildren.
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