BGM email@example.com_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2005-01-25 published
Mary Elinor POCOCK
By Kate POCOCK, Tuesday, January 25, 2005 - Page A18
Artist, photographer, metalworker, teacher. Born August 12, 1952, in Ottawa. Died September 3, 2004 in Toronto, of breast cancer, aged 52.
Even as a child, Mary viewed the world with imagination. While digging with sand shovels, she would be looking at her surroundings through the hole in the handle. When visiting Montreal's Expo 67, Mary created sandstone sculptures for the Youth Pavilion. As a teenager, Mary worked summers for the Department of Indian Affairs, tagging First Nations artifacts and decorating the showroom. Her bosses must have recognized her design sense, too, because a year later, they flew her to New York to research and photograph native crafts at two museums there.
In the early 1970s, she took that research to First Nations reserves across Alberta to teach traditional Cree and Ojibwa designs and publish a series of booklets. She was impressed that the Ojibwa had no word for "goodbye," for she too hated saying goodbye to almost anyone she met.
The second of seven children, Mary left her boisterous family to study metal and jewellery at Sheridan College and philosophy at Boston University, where she had her first photo exhibition. Returning to Canada, she became resident metalsmith at Toronto's Harbourfront Craft Studios and worked as a custom colour technician at BGM photo lab and Toronto Image Works. There, she met her husband, fellow photographer Marcus SCHUBERT. In 1989, after a wedding ceremony where she wore green and purple and her five flower-girl nieces wore white, Marcus took Mary and her camera on a 10-month honeymoon through Europe and North Africa in a Volkswagen camper. It was the first of their collaborative efforts, a journey that inspired many of her ethereal photographs. "Not the Material Girl," said brother Philip at her funeral, "but our Ethereal Girl."
Mary was teaching every second that she was alive. She taught art to pre-schoolers, school kids, and special education students at summer arts schools and at museums. She became a certified yoga instructor in California and combined it with art therapy for cancer patients. She instructed teachers on how to teach art and, at the end of her life, she taught hospice workers and nurses how to treat the dying. Even at her weakest, she worked on her illustrated cancer journals, the Pocock Diaries, so that they might inspire others.
Throughout her 11-year engagement with cancer, Mary relied on humour, her Buddhist philosophies and the natural flow of nature and life. The powerful link between creation and healing was nowhere more evident than in her photographs, mystical images of gardens or superimposed photos of ever-changing nature against permanent historic structures. Her greatest legacy, perhaps, is the 22 transparent photographic panels installed into patient windows at the new palliative care ward at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. At night, when the hallway lights are on, her photographs glow like stained glass. Elizabeth DOUGHERTY, a hospital social worker, summed it up best when she wrote that Mary "walked in peace, died in peace and left peace behind. Her images," she added, "contribute to the kindest gift she could give to another person -- a happy, peaceful death."
Mary loved great beginnings and great endings. She requested a plain pine box so mourners could paint and draw on her coffin. The visitation room was set up as an art gallery. Her photos hung on the walls, her sketchbooks of poetry were open so visitors could add to them. A table was filled with pastels, crayons and markers. As dozens of Friends and family painted scenes of nature, blessings and messages of thanks, one of her nephews painted "Fun!" on the casket. It was an unusual tribute for a funeral but one that Mary would have appreciated.
Kate POCOCK is Mary's sister.
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