Gift of Life Portrait Show


Ilene Sova
Artist Statement – Gift of Life Portrait Show

Opening April 2nd at Walnut Contemporary, 201 Niagara, Toronto ON. 3:00 -6:00 pm.

To donate you can now register online! Click here:

When I was when I was 11 years old, my mother took me and my four siblings aside to tell us that if she were to die, she would be donating all her organs to others and the rest of her body to science. We were shocked and questioned her decision emphatically. In chorus, we demanded to know how we could have a funeral for her if we had nothing to bury?

A very spiritual person, my mother explained to us that our body was only a home for our soul. She said that when she dies she would leave her body and it would be better to leave it for others to use and possibly save people’s lives. To explain further to her children, she insisted that organs and her body were simply a kind of ‘puppet’ carrying her around for her time on earth. What she emphasized to us was that her body was not HER.

Her response to our pleas was something I never forgot. It is this concept that followed me into my adulthood and had me sign all my organs over on my donation form without a second thought.

When I was approached by curator Raquel Vilhena with the concept of this show, I thought back again to this childhood story and how strongly it had shaped how I thought about the body, organs and the soul.

As the recipients came to my studio one by one to be photographed for this series, and told me their emotional and impactful stories, I learned much more about what it means to give the Gift of Life and how deeply it can change the trajectory of a family’s life.

In meetings with the Trillium Gift of Life Network, I was shocked to learn about the poor statistics in Canada when it comes to organ donations. I discovered that only ONE PERCENT of Canadians who die in hospitals donate their organs and that we have one of the lowest organ donation rates in the developed world. This was in great contrast to how I thought Canadians were as a people -­‐ giving, charitable and caring in nature.

I wondered why more people weren’t signing their donation forms. As I began to research this question, I came to understand that people don’t like to talk about or face their own death, that signing an organ card is somehow connected to the very idea of immortality that we as a society avoid talking about at all costs.

This realization is what led me to the concept of putting the organs in patterns on the clothes. We do not often think about what is inside of us, what human parts make us work and run as beings. What if what was on the inside was on the outside. If we thought about these parts often and saw them as part of our daily lives? Would they be less mysterious and have less connection with aspects of living that scare us?

I hope that this show acts as a catalyst for more people to consider the Gift of Life, I hope it inspires people to think about or insides and how valuable they can be to our fellow human beings.

To donate you can now register online and tell your family and friends your wishes! Click here:

Ilene Sova Painting

Panting of Alexandria, Liver Recipient, 4 x 4 feet, oil on canvas

Ilene Sova Painting

Painting of Hilda, Kidney and Pancreas Recipient 5 x 4 feet


Painting of Alex, Lung Recipient, 5 x 4 feet, Oil on Canvas

Painting Ilene Sova

Painting of Keanan, Gift of Life Donor, 5 x 5 feet, oil on canvas

Painting Ilene Sova

Painting of Justin, Kidney Recipient, 4 x 4 feet, oil on canvas

Painting Ilene Sova

Painting of Helen, Heart Recipient, 4 x 4 feet, oil on canvas

Painting Ilene Sova

Painting of Laureen and Jacqui, Kidney Recipient and Donor, 5.5 x 4 feet,

Painting Ilene Sova

Painting of Margaret and Audrey, Liver Piece Recipient and Donor, 5 x5 feet Oil on Canvas