Colwood resident, photographer and writer Christine Henry smiles over the edge of her drink before putting it down on the table at The Bear’s Den. “I may only have 10 or 20 years left,” says the 62-year-old, throwing a light-hearted jab at her age, “so I’m going to do what I want.”
The coffee shop up at Bear Mountain is the location of Henry’s latest photography show and sale, which sees her work adorning the café walls throughout the month of May.
Henry has been a visual artist for a long time – in a way.
She’s been in visual presentation for a long time, anyway. She used to set up window displays and showrooms for major furniture and clothing retailers. She still does some of that; a few hours here and there for Northern Reflections, but she considers herself “retired.”
She comes by her artistic and creative impulses naturally. Her parents met at art school. Her mother became a fashion model and her father went to a career as a commercial artist. Her grandmother was a muralist.
Henry has passed it on to her children, as well. Her son, Freddie, created graffiti art during the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, and is a well-respected tattoo artist in Winnipeg. He has made backdrops for national awards shows and put on workshops at the Canadian Museum of Civilization.
Henry’s own “work” these days is mainly her photography. She focuses mainly on landscape and nature scenes, but she also has a soft spot for broken-down and rusting out vintage cars and dilapidated farm equipment, as it brings her back to the innocence of her youth – before life got complicated.
“When I go out shooting,” she says, “I can’t explain it, really. I go back to my little happy time around the farm with my grandparents. Everything since that just lifts off of me.”
She didn’t realize, while she was at her grandparents’ farm in Manitoba in the 1970s, that she was essentially being babysat, she says. She didn’t know that her mother was in the hospital for almost a year while she laid in the fields of Manitoba scanning the clouds for recognizable shapes, climbing trees and joyfully picking dandelions.
“When my mom got multiple sclerosis, everything changed,” she says. “My dad took it pretty hard and became an alcoholic. So basically, I was left caring for my parents,” she says.
It’s her life as a caregiver to her parents that she’s attempting to bring to life for people in her newest written work.
The working title of her first full-length book – she’s had a few shorter pieces published – is Who Cares? The autobiographical examination asks the question, “who cares for the kids who are caring for their parents?” she says.
“Everyone thought I was such a bad kid in school because I was always getting called to the office,” she says. In reality, she was being called to the office because the school was notified that she needed to go home to pull up her mothers’ pants or deal with one of her father’s drunken exploits.
“There will be a lot of positives in it for people,” Henry says, despite the gloomy subject matter. The content explores the effect of coaches and mentors in her life who supported her in times of need, such as the high school coach who gave her a babysitting job so she could both afford decent shoes and have time to do her homework.
“Right now I’m trying to do the photography a bit more than I used to so I can bring home a bit more bacon,” she says, laughing. Writing takes time, she says, and doesn’t pay until it’s done and people are paying to read it, so photography fills the financial gap between writing projects.
Find out more about Henry and her work at ChristineHenryArts.com or head up to the Bear’s Den this month. Partial proceeds from the show and sale will be going to the Saunders Family Foundation, which helps kids who can’t afford to register in sports and art programs to do so.