WEST SIDE STORY
Saint John, New Brunswick
Volume 3, Number 5, p. 6
Governor of New Brunswick Attends
Benefit Dinner at Dufferin Inn
By Wendy Matheson and Les Stoodley
The Honourable Marilyn Trenholme Counsell, Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick, drove from Fredericton during a snowstorm to support the work of the Canadian Liver Foundation and Canadian impressionist painter Antoine Gaber on April 5th. She came for a benefit dinner at the San Martello Dining Room to launch a special art exhibit. A percentage of painting sales will be donated to the Canadian Liver Foundation.
The idea for the Gaber art exhibit was born at a CLF Awareness Evening on Liver Disease hosted by the Lieutenant Governor in Fredericton last October. New Brunswick artist/photographer (and double liver transplant recipient), Freeman Patterson, was the keynote speaker. “Freeman Patterson’s personal story touched my soul,” said Antoine. “As a result of his brush with death, I became concerned that not enough was known about the more than 100 forms of liver disease. I was contacted by Les Stoodley, the Regional Coordinator of the CLF for New Brunswick, and decided to offer assistance to improve the awareness of liver disease,” Antoine stated.
A former family physician and nutritionist, Dr. Trenholme Counsell spoke of the need for a positive life style, and the need for all residents of New Brunswick to be aware of healthy diets. “The Canadian Liver Foundation fulfils a vital role in New Brunswick and in Canada in its efforts to promote research and education,” she said. She told the dinner audience that disease awareness and research are the tools needed to find treatments for all diseases including those of the liver, which she described as “the body’s vital cleaning organ.”
Referring to the paintings of Antoine Gaber, the Lieutenant Governor said her senses were stimulated by the beauty of the paintings contained in the exhibit. “We see a variety of work which portrays beauty in many aspects”, she said. “I had no idea I would be captivated by such beautiful images, particularly those of New Brunswick.”
Each course of the seven-course feast was inspired by a specific Gaber painting. San Martello Dining Room’s Chef Axel Begner created the meal which included such exotic fare as: duck with garden greens, Champagne soup, smoked salmon with jasmine rice, passion fruit menthe sherbet, lamb and sweet potatoes, New Brunswick cheese, and an “abstract French Can-Can dessert variation.” Telegraph-Journal columnist and West Sider, Fred Hazel, attended the dinner and gave it rave reviews: “Our hosts Axel and Margret did everything impeccably right.”
Antoine was born to an artistic family in 1957 in Cairo, Egypt. He became interested in photography at the age of 8. As a young man, Antoine flirted with a career as an actor, but succumbed to the pressure to “get a real job,” and became a pharmaceutical researcher, working primarily with breast cancer therapies. The self-taught painter only began dabbling in oils in 1994 and is now an internationally-recognized artist.
The former director of the New Brunswick Medicare / Prescription Drug Program, Antoine presently resides in Toronto. In his remarks at the dinner, Antoine said he wanted to continue to support charities that have a commitment to improving the health of Canadians. He said his work in clinical research impacted on his desire to use his artistic talent to support funding research to find cures and treatments for liver disease. “Liver disease is very insidious. If one does not know the early symptoms, one could lose the use of the liver and death follows very shortly. Often the low awareness of liver disease and the late stage diagnosis contributes to the high mortality. Many people do not realize that one Canadian in 12 will suffer from some form of liver disease in their lifetime. In advanced stages of the disease, several patients will need a liver transplant. Without financial support, the Canadian Liver Foundation will not be able to continue its vital research into the causes of liver disease. I hope that the proceeds from my art will support the CLF efforts to improve public awareness, early diagnosis and prevention of the disease through education and research,” Antoine said.
CLF Regional Coordinator, Les Stoodley, said the benefit dinner was an outstanding success and most memorable. It was an honour to have the Lieutenant Governor attend as a Patron. Les described the support of Dufferin Inn owners, Margret and Axel Begner, as “exceptional.” “It is the beginning of not only a fundraising event but also an educational process supported by the outstanding talent of international and Canadian artist Antoine Gaber,” Les concluded.
Visitors at an Open House on April 6th were treated to a guided tour of the Gaber exhibit with the personable artist himself, and delicious pastries prepared by Margret. There is a particularly beautiful rendering of St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Rothesay, as well as many flower paintings and some landscapes. Antoine smiled as he recalled his insurance company’s reaction when he told them he had packed the paintings into his van and driven them here from Toronto himself. “They freaked out!” he said. No doubt he will hire professionals to pack them when he represents Canada at the Biennale Internazionale dell’Arte Contemporanea in Florence, Italy in December.
Margret Begner says one of Antoine’s paintings has already been purchased. Art lovers are invited to view the Gaber exhibit, which will be on display at Dufferin Inn until the end of August. You can learn more about Antoine Gaber and his art by visiting his website: www.antoinegaber.com . More information about the Canadian Liver Foundation can be obtained by calling Therese Quinlan, president of the Saint John Chapter, at (506) 635-2996 or Les Stoodley, Regional Coordinator, at (506) 869-9118.