A father's pain takes form 0
By Lori Penner
Cliff Derksen's life as he knew it came to an end on Nov. 30, 1984.
That was the night his daughter Candace was abducted and murdered.
The Winnipeg artist and his family went through years wondering why this had happened and had to make their peace with unanswered questions.
Then, when the killer was finally found, all the old wounds were re-opened.
Getting through the trial in 2011 brought all the pain and confusion to the surface again.
For Derksen, who had devoted all those years to supporting his family, it was time to face many of his own demons.
He found a way to do that through art. And some of his pieces are currently on display at Altona's Gallery in the Park in an exhibit called Project Angel.
"I've been an artist all of my life, but I didn't respect or know what I had," he says.
His simple sketches during the five week trial portrayed the lawyers, witnesses and all the players in this game he inadvertently became a part of.
The raw emotions of all six of his family members and the ways they coped with those dark days are all there to see in his sketches.
"Going through something like this hits you to your very core, and I couldn't escape what I was being asked to face."
During the trial, Derksen saw the courtroom as a kind of holy ground where all the bad forces surrounding Candace's death came together.
But the closure he had anticipated after the sentencing didn't come.
"I had to ask myself if I was okay, and I realized I still had a lot of things I needed to process."
His art began to evolve, and his sculptures brought the feelings he had buried to light in graphic detail. The heart wrenching depiction of his own hands, bound and bruised in the piece called, 6.5 Weeks depicts his wish that it could have been him instead of Candace that had suffered.
Lady Justice is Derksen's version of the traditional piece, only in this case, the law books, swords and scales morph into strands of DNA.
It was DNA evidence that eventually found his daughter's murderer. The piece Escape-Jonah offers the first sign of healing.
"Understanding Jonah was the beginning of my return to sanity," Derksen writes. "Like Jonah, God pursued me and did not let go. I have 'broken free' because of a very patient, understanding and forgiving God."
"I know our journey will continue," Derksen says. "But it's one that I know we're not going through alone."