Facing out into the exhibit hall of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, is a clear Plexiglas window. Carved
crudely into the plastic from inside a small amphitheater read the words “Stella was here” in large
On one wall ghost-like still images are projected onto a screen while artist and photographer Stella
Ducklow’s voice resonates out of hidden speakers.
Her project, Sub-Cue, is part of the AGNS’s exhibit “Synaptic Connections,” a collection of various art
inspired by the workings of the human brain.
As a teenager she was admitted to the IWK’s in-patient psychiatric unit, four-south. In 2010 she would return with her camera to document the space.
“The main idea was telling a story,” Ducklow said during an interview. “It’s a place that needs a lot of
change and needs to be more progressive and have better facilities. “
Over the images Ducklow’s voice describes the her experience in the care unit.
“You always remember the feeling of having no control and having no privacy. The experience being in the wards… the experience of not feeling safe,” the audio explains.
The vignette is comprised entirely photos from four-south.
There are no clear images of people in any of the photos. The only bodies are shadowy distorted figures blurred by movement.
“I wasn’t allowed to shoot any patients or staff but I didn’t want to present the space as empty so I used myself.”
As the images move along Ducklow’s voice becomes more frantic, exhibiting the anxiousness and
manic aspects of bi-polar disorder.
A condition she describes in “Sub-Cue” as a blessing as well as a curse.
“It given me the more creative aspects of my personality and given me the ability to do all this amazing work”
“I’m more in the moment and more compassionate.”
Ducklow was also awarded the “Inspiring Lives Award” by the Mental Health Foundation of Nova
Scotia for her work in the ward.
She is currently working on another project photographing the provinces forensic institutions.
The exhibit runs until January 29.