Those special people: Kina Reusch
Kina was born in British Guyana to a Quebequoise mother(Dede, a weaver)and an older Norwegian architect whom I knew as “daddy”. When Kina was 11, her mother left her and her younger sister, for a new family in Colombia. The girls were brought up by “grandmama” and her twin sister in Montreal. Kina was 12 years older than me and the most beautiful and elegant of all my female friends. We met in the 1970s, both active members of Powerhouse Gallery, we quickly became close friends and remained so until her death in 1987.
Kina trained me in Gobelin tapestry weaving techniques, and when I was low on funds, I wove some tapestries from her designs and was there when extra hands were needed to remove a tapestry from her 72” wide, custom, upright Leclerc loom. We shared many interests and activities like dancing, cooking and having long detailed conversations about our lovers. We shared a passion for reading and languages, particularly the etymology of words.
Kina had an astounding capacity to be pursued by, and entangled with, odd and inappropriate men who found her irresistible. There was the group of middle-aged Hungarians at the Coffee Mill, Boris T, her Russian ex-husband who swore he would kill her if she ever came back to Toronto, and the ever-changing, social worker-needy men of the moment. Kina had no ethnic, religious or cultural barriers regarding the men she flirted with, and I specifically remember the rude Greek waiter from the Symposium resto, the short Italian butcher from the Main(who served his customers standing on a Sealtest box behind his counter), the Portuguese mechanic who sang to her from the street, and the Hassidic smatte-seller who traded dirty jokes with her and got her address - all married, of course. Kina attracted men like the stray cats she frequently took in. She would wash them, litter-train them, get them vaccinated and then find good homes for them - the cats I mean - the men were not vaccinated.
In 1980, Kina’s capacity to ‘beguile’ men affected my future income. We were invited to a cocktail party in Quebec City by one of my art students, and while I was quickly consuming as many hors d’oeuvres as possible, Kina was enchanting Françoys Bernier, the artistic director of the Domaine Forget music school in St-Irenée, Charlevoix. The encounter(Kina kept him at arm’s length for grope-protection) resulted in his invitation for us to hold the Ateliers Beaux-Arts(the art school I began in the Beauce), at the Domaine, and my summer school became a fixture, at the end of each August, for 12 years. Kina and Sigrun(another friend) ran the school with me for the first few years.
For Kina and me, our favourite activity was doing the ‘run’ between Atwater and Boul. St-Laurent - I am not referring to jogging, but strolling with regular stops. We began at ‘Dressmaker Services on St-Catherine St. and Lambert Closse, where we could find essential ‘stuff’ of interest for visual artists: dyes, beads, threads, buttons, quality scissors, rulers etc. Next, a stop at the Czech tea room, for strong espresso and the purchase of a chocolate bunny on a motorcycle, at Easter time.
Our ‘run’ schedule was army-accurate, and after coffee, we headed towards Mountain Street and the Parisian smatte(rag) shop. There, under the narrowed eyes of the bitchy ‘French’ proprietor, we could spend up to 2 hours immersed in racks of affordable second-hand finery. Sometimes we actually purchased. For years I wore blue silk pyjamas by Givenchy to parties(who knew they were for sleeping?) and Kina specialized in Missoni and Yves St-Laurent - we were two under-financed artists looking for something fine and luxurious.
After the smatte-fest, it was time for an inexpensive, Hungarian lunch at the Coffee Mill, which meant circumnavigating the middle-aged married professionals who swarmed around Kina(they liked me too, but I didn’t provoke as much drool). Afterwards, we headed for the side entrance of the Ritz to use their superb bathroom which was clean and spacious, with comfy chairs where we could nap if tired. The next few hours were spent cruising art galleries(Kina’s elegance balanced my backpack and so we were tolerated), and used bookshops until it was time for an early Polish supper at the Mazurka(starch, starch and more starch) and then: A FILM.
Kina and I loved cinema and were avid readers of movie reviews. We sought out good if unconventional(weird) recommendations from trusted critics. Outstanding in my memory, was the humid (slimy?) east-end movie house where we saw Taxi Zum Klo (Taxi to the Toilet). We were the only women in the lineup, and the ticket vendor asked us if we really wanted to see this movie. The film was very good, and any questions we had about anonymous, sadomasochistic male on-male sexual practices or, what can go where, when, and how - were answered. At the time we considered this vital information.
I realize in retrospect, that the 15 years that I knew Kina, were perhaps the most stable in her life. By the mid -1980s her demons were taking over, and she was distancing herself from me and other friends in Montreal. Her final disappointment, occurred when her grandmother died and left the inheritance she intended for Kina and her sister, for Dede to administer. The funds and profit from the sale of Grandmama’s house disappeared to Colombia. At that point, abandoned twice by her mother, Kina left Montreal and spent an isolated winter in Québec City, then the following one in La Malbaie. We spoke often, but she was slipping away. In January(1987) she asked me if I wanted to go to Mexico with her, but as usual, didn’t have the funds and needed to work. Upon her return to Quebec, she took her own life - a shocking but not entirely surprising event.
Kina was the first of three close friends of mine to die without family support or any set plans for the aftermath of their deaths. The next day, a mutual friend, Francine, called me for help in handling Kina’s affairs: a semi-coherent handwritten testament, 30 years of artwork and her accumulated debts. There was a major exhibition of her art planned at Galerie Lacerte/Guimont in Québec City, for the following spring, which the gallery immediately cancelled upon the news of her demise(no future returns on their investment - so, out). We sold as many of Kina’s works as we could to pay off her debts, and Francine and I shared the rest.
Periodically, the Musée du Québec contacts me for copyright permission to reproduce images of the three Reusch tapestries in their collection. Each time they call, I offer to donate the remaining tapestries to their museum, but they require professional evaluations that cost a few thousand dollars and are beyond my means. So, here in the wilds of Arundel, I live with her biggest tapestry and some smaller ones on my walls. Living with these beautiful pieces inspires me to keep going as a painter and reminds me of Kina’s exceptional creative originality, expert technical skills, and the valued friendship I dearly miss.
NB: all my essays are: fictionalized-memories.
KINA REUSCH Curriculum vitae
Born in British Guyana, Canadian citizen, Kina was 50 years old when she died in 1987 in Quebec City. Self-taught except for one year at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts School of Art and Design, she studied silk screening, batik, pottery, low warp weaving and pattern-making from individual artists and in non-credit evening classes at the Ontario College of Art and Central Technical School, Toronto.
Work Experience: Diverse life-supporting occupations: medical secretary, bookkeeper, fashion designer (producing her line of dresses), film production assistant (Roman Kroiter, IMAX co-originator), bar manager, textile painter (for Vali Fashions), teacher of weaving and design at the Visual Arts Centre, Montreal, Director of Powerhouse Gallery in 1977, director of programming for Ateliers Beauxarts in Charlevoix, with Joanna Nash,1981-83. Designed and taught a travelling design course in Charlevoix subsidized in part by the Chalmers Fund of the Canada Council.
Awards: 1986 Canada Council, Jean A. Chalmers Fund Grant
1981 Canada Council, Short-Term Grant
1979 Ministère des Affaires Culturelles, Exhibition Grant
1978 Canada Council, Project Cost Grant
1976 Canada Council, Short-Term Grant
1976 Ministère des Affaires Culturelles, Exhibition Grant
1974-75 Canada Council “B” Grant
1985 Centre d’Art de Baie St-Paul
1985 Domaine Forget, St-Irénée
1981 Pollock Gallery, Toronto
1981 Toronto Dominion Centre, Toronto
1979 Centre des Arts Visuels, Montreal
1975-1977 Powerhouse Gallery, Montreal.
1986 Convergence ‘86, Toronto (reviewed in Globe and Mail)
1984 Grand Prix des Metiers d’art, Centre culturel-Mont Royal
1983 Architectural Detail, Heritage Montreal
1979 Biennale de la Nouvelle Tapisserie, Museum of Contemporary Art, Montreal
1976 CORRIDART, Olympic Games exhibition(her sculpture “Tori” was one of many bulldozed overnight by Mayor Jean Drapeau, details in Concordia U. archives).
1975 ArtFemme ‘75, Centre Saidye Bronfman, Montreal
Lavalin Inc., Maritime Forwarding Inc., Art Bank of the Canada Council (two purchases),
Collection Prêt d’Oeuvres d’Art Musée du Quebec (three purchases).
Private collections in Canada and the United States
1981 Painters in Canada, CBC profile
1981 Quebec Report, CBC profile
1979 Art Montreal, Cable T.V. profile
1976 Arts Canada, CORRIDART, #206/207*
*Kina was one of three artists who led the court fight against the City of Montreal after Mayor Jean Drapeau had the commissioned(jury-selected) outdoor art for the Olympic games, bulldozed. The case took 14 years to win, with small financial compensations, and many of Kina’s tapestries went to pay for legal fees. L’affaire Corridart is fully documented in the Concordia University Archives, along with the Powerhouse Gallery Holdings
For further information about the artworks of Kina Reusch please contact: Joanna Nash, firstname.lastname@example.org, (819) 687-1335