Shannon Kathleen Morgan
May 13, 1975 – January 20, 2009
Shannon was an artist, a graduate of ACAD in Calgary, B.Des. She also suffered from severe depression, OCD and agoraphobia. After eight years of fighting her mental illness, in hopelessness and despair, she gave up and took her life in January of 2009.
To honour her talent and her passion for art and to ensure her art is forever visible for people to enjoy, here it is.
Shannon herself did not believe she did anything useful with her life so she hid her art away and would not show it to anyone. Most people she knew did not know she was an artist and were totally unaware of the breadth and depth of her artistic ability.
Her art shows a wide variety of styles in many media and subject matter. She never limited herself to just one style, though of interest to her was the play of light and dark, the human body, landscapes, still life and the world of imagination and illustration of her imagination. She had just started her career in design when she suddenly went into a severe depression, which she never came out of.
Had she lived it would have been interesting to follow her continued progress in art and design as it evolved over the years. However, she did leave approximately 150 pieces, which is still a considerable body of work. Unfortunately we will never know what she would have become.
Suicide is epidemic in North America. 90% of all suicides have a mental health component and the waste in human life and potential is enormous.
Through the exhibiting of her art and sale of some of her pieces, it is hoped that more can be done in the way of prevention of suicide and improving the mental health of those suffering from a mental illness.
Please take your time to view her art, let it grow on you and appreciate the wonderful vision and passion Shannon had for her art.
Jan 28, 2009
She was the best baby. Of all three children, she was the happiest, the most content and the easiest. She was the twin born first and I wondered why that would be. Typically, she was never in a hurry. Then I read that the active twin kicks the other one out, not knowing that they are going themselves. Sort of like my grandson Joshua who loves the Christmas tree, and likely believes it’s a permanent addition to the house and won’t be going soon.
They were premature twins, 5 ½ weeks early. Shaun was a little fussy – a little colic, but Shannon didn’t even cry the first few weeks, she squeaked (some premie thing not yet developed).
Shan was the kind of kid who molded herself to your body when you held her. She loved hugs and kisses, and was the one people wanted to hold. (No one could catch Shaun, so that may have been a factor). So there she was happy, quiet, went at her own speed but was thrown in with a bunch of quick, hurry-up people which was our family. However, she remained herself. She always took her time, with her bottle, with her food and she was the child always looking for that last shoe when everyone was ready to go. I don’t like to admit it, but behind their backs, I called them Godzilla and the Turtle.
Speaking of shoes, when she was little, she had a love of shoes, especially those shiny red patent shoes her aunt and uncle gave her. Boy, was she unhappy to see them on a neighbor’s child, even though she couldn’t force her growing feet into them any more. We were a recycling neighborhood which was nice for a mom with twins, because I could get nice dresses (and she loved dresses) and all sorts of winter coats, boots, skates, yes.- and even the blue mud boots with (was it a duck?) on them, which was her next footwear love. Shannon and her sister Kristine, loved dress-up and Shannon loved dogs all her life.
She was a social child. She had her friends. Shannon always had her friends, and often helped Shaun with his socialization. But she always struggled with school starting out with that long name – S H A N N O N. It was hard for a pre-kindergarten kid. She sweated over that while Shaun sat down once, scrawled his name then ran off.
When they were little, Shannon always had her brother close. Because he was such a good seeing-eye brother no one noticed she had the Biden curse of no sense of direction until one day she misplaced him and arrived home much later, upset, saying she couldn’t find her house.
School was always hard and she had her issues. Kindergarten testing showed she had the auditory and visual abilities of a 15 year old, (hence the talent in art, I suspect). She scored lower in other areas, but seemed to be ready. They were wrong. Both kids started out in French school, until she began forgetting her English, and Shaun began stuttering in French, so that was a bust.
Shannon had some learning issues, but tested smarter than most people and that boy who never slowed down for anyone to notice, was rather gifted. Who knew?
I often thought she was from a different tribe – equal, but different. Unfortunately, on this earth, the other tribe became dominant and she and her kind were alienated. Lots of the other kids like her were whizzes in music, or math, or writing, or in her case, Art, but were terrible in many other subjects. Just different, I always thought, which is something I think she felt all her life. However, it made her a beautiful artist and thank goodness for Spell Check.
She was a fighter and a hard worker though, and never gave up. Shannon went into Alternative High School and their good art program with a 30 something average. She graduated with an 80 something average. Afterwards with no self esteem, she would not go to Art School until some dufus she knew, that Shaun told her about, got in. With Shaun’s encouragement, plus she was so outraged, she applied and of course, was accepted . She did well, but became more perfectionist and an over-worker. She and I survived four years there and “we” graduated with an Art Degree, B.Des. from ACAD. No more sleeping in the car in my pajamas in the parking lot of a copy place, while she was in there feverishly putting together yet another project.
As a teen she was popular. Ben, her cousin would proudly point her out. His friends would look at this beautiful, tall, blond, buxom girl and would say THAT is your cousin? – in awe. All of Shaun’s friends were of course gaga over her.
She was a teenager with a heart of gold, bringing home stray children thrown out of their homes, helping everyone with their issues – a good listener, a good problem solver, and a good friend. She always wanted to be liked and loved, not believing she was.
She took one year to find a job after ACAD because she wouldn’t settle for the sweat shops, but wanted a business to take her as a graphic designer. Unfortunately, the employer was abusive – long hours and a toxic work environment until one day she simply could not get out of bed. The serious depression set in – then 8 years fighting that until it brought her to her end.
Everyone tried. Everyone loved her. She was a very special person, always a smile on her face, sometimes forced, but there. And sometimes she helped people to her own detriment. She had to have people like her, so sometimes she was very hard to engage in her own recovery. When pushed, that strength and the stubborn streak that helped her survive other issues in her life, would come into play. She would go to refusal, fear, blame and anger, and then isolation. She just couldn’t seem to pull herself out of it.
Everything conspired against her at the end, from the eight years of pharmaceutical hell, where she never did find help among the pills and doctors, to the process and bureaucracy of forms, forms, forms, which they expected her to come and hand in despite her inability to leave the house with agoraphobia, and finally her apparent undiagnosed heart condition which we now know accounted for a lot of the chest pains and illness. Also she was just not feeling well that week.
I believe she had enough, so she left – which I believe is her right. I couldn’t have stood that for eight years. It’s extremely sad and devastating for us all, but she is now in a place of joy and light and love. She’s very happy. It’ll just take time for us all to be happy again. We’ll stop being sad and remember her fondly – her love of people, her wonderful spirit and all the good things about her including the wonderful art she left behind. She fought the good fight for as long as she could.
Just to leave on a lighter note. Shortly before she died I went to visit my sister and I was supposed to call her and let her know I had arrived in Florida. I forgot. My sister Connie told her I had emailed. Shannon reprimanded me (not too seriously though) for not calling and letting her know I had arrived.
A day or so after she died, Connie and I were at my house and the phone rang but no one was on the other end. Spontaneously without thinking, I said, that’s just Shannon calling to tell me she has arrived.
Thanks Shan, I get the message.
Kathy Briant, her mother
First night, I toss in restless grief
Stretch out my arm along the sheets,
I am alive and feeling
But she can’t feel, not ever
Inhale, I sigh, relieve the stress
The air fresh, clean to fill my lungs
I am alive, but she will never breathe again
I toss again and turn, whole body roll to one side
The warmth and comfort, weight of blankets
I am alive, not her
She cannot turn, lies still, lies heavy
The life force gone forever
The tears, hot warmth against my cheek
I am alive, I grieve, I hurt
Not her, she will not cry again
Blond hair laid down to sleep
The quiet peace descends
She does not live
Hot tears, for her no more to flow
I am alive, in pain, and cry
Not her, no more of life
No more of pain
Herself, adrift and free
Somewhere above us now
Again deep throated laugh,
Thumbs up, the wink
She’s happy, but not me
My happiness, somewhere
A long and lonely road
Her struggles over, but not mine
She is at peace
Alive no more
Alive, I grieve
And all is said and done
Kathy Briant Jan 22/09
Shan and Me
A smile that lights the room
Deep throated laugh
A heart as big as all outdoors
Despair, in anger and in fear
The anxious sweats
And pain, beyond imagining
All tucked in nice and safe
The perfect sleep,
So longed for, but eluded
Deep sigh, resigned, she slips away
And peace at last
Kathy BriantJan 22/09
And Art, successful
Her things, her space
To sooth the hurts
And laugh again
Kathy Briant Jan 22/09
Read by Shannon’s high school art teacher, Wilf at her service Jan 28/09
Do you remember the rocking chair
With hundreds of little round bits of plastic
Attached to it?
It was your inimitable
And very thoughtful way
Of wishing me a relaxing time during
I loved that chair.
It was like a symbol to me
That the idea of self expression
And creativity was in good hands
With you and
Others of your generation.
I appreciated the sense of humor
And the effort that
Must have gone into the creation
Of that chair
And so I felt quite sad
When one day I forgot
To take the rocking chair back
Back into the house
For safe keeping.
That night it rained
And when I looked out into the
Backyard something had changed
Your chair looked slightly different
Many of the small round bits
Of plastic had washed off
During the night
And had landed on the ground.
What I did not realize
In my disappointment at that moment
Was the fact that
Every year since
I have come across bits of
That chair’s decorations when I plant
Flowers, play with my
Grandchildren or work on
Beneath the apple tree.
It is during those moments
That I feel your presence Shannon
And I am reminded of your
Warm, generous smile
And the way you have inspired
Me and others with
Your art and your personality.
Thank you Shannon !!
For me the days
During which our paths crossed
Have left a lasting impression
And I know
That the next time I come
Across a small part of that
A bemused smile will come my way
And I will return it
Just as I did in those years
So long… your mentor
And kindred spirit Wilf
Photos of Shannon’s Life [PDF]
Shannon on becoming an Aunt [YouTube video]