If you were to walk past Elmira resident Brent Schreiber’s Elmira house, it may look like any other family home in the neighbourhood. There are no telltale markings about what is inside, or clues to alert a passerby that it is unlike any other. Like Schreiber himself, the four walls of his home mask the intricacies of what lies within them.
Upon stepping through his front door, you will find not an ordinary living room as you might expect, but a fully equipped art gallery that currently houses paintings from his latest collection.
Schreiber is a painter whose work focuses on large-scale figurative paintings documenting the recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction. Combining traditional painting, design and narrative themes, Schreiber, a recovering alcoholic himself, said he wants his paintings to portray a universal relation to a disease that is rarely understood.
“Most of the media around alcoholism focuses on when somebody is ill. We see images of people in the courtroom, we see celebrities getting busted and TV shows about rehab,” explained Schreiber. “In the media, somebody goes to rehab for two days and then they are fine. That wasn’t my experience.”
Brent previously spent 14 years in the advertising field as a designer, illustrator, art director and creative director for both private design firms and national retail corporations. Since his recovery, he has begun to work full time at his art.
“If you had told me three years ago that today I would be doing this, or even be alive, I might not have believed you,” said Schreiber. “I was pretty much one drink away from death or the gutter.”
After years as an untreated alcoholic, having been fired from his job and losing his ability to create art, Schreiber entered a 12-step program in 2007. The process involved periods of detoxification, rehabilitation and what was the hardest part for the London-born artist who moved to Elmira nine years ago: admitting to himself that he had a problem at all.
“For me, it was a black and white thing. It was accepting that if I take another drink, I am going to die. I don’t know if it’s going to be today or tomorrow or a year from now, but it had gotten bad enough that I couldn’t justify it anymore. I needed to help myself.”
And during his road to rehabilitation came his renewed passion in painting. He began creating portraits of others who were going through challenges similar to his own. Now the collection, called Man in the Glass, has 16 pieces to showcase each of which took between 60 and 100 hours to create. Most of the sales of Schreiber’s work are to medical clinics and addiction research centres.
“I could paint something else, but I want to put it out there that this is what I am about,” he explained. “My work focuses on capturing emotion and empathy on the canvas. I want the viewer to feel like they are present with the subject and relate to what is being expressed even though they may not share the same experience.”
So to welcome the community into his home and his life, Schreiber is hosting an open house. The doors to his gallery will be open for anyone in the community to check out his artwork and say hello.
“I am so fortunate to be able to do what I want to do every day,” he said. “Up until that point [of sobriety] I just had an existence, today I actually have a life. With my art, it’s a leap of faith and I just believe that maybe this can work. I am thrilled with the response I have already gotten.”
The Man in the Glass open house and art exhibition runs Sept. 25 and 26 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 65 Aspen Cres. in Elmira. Both originals and prints of his work will be available at the open house at a one time reduced prices. For more information about Schreiber’s work or the event, visit www.brentschreiber.com.