In Memoriam: Katja (MacLeod) Kessin

Katja Kessin, an artist and well-loved teacher in the Faculty of Fine Arts, died on April 1 after a long illness.

She came to Montreal in 1981 from Hamburg, Germany, and began her studies at Concordia in 1985, graduating with a BFA and an MFA in painting.

In 2003 she was awarded a PhD in the Humanities. Her research project, To Lend the Dead a Voice, focused on artists who were the descendants of Jewish and Gentile Germans of the Third Reich.

Art History Chair Loren Lerner writes, “Over the years she developed a detailed iconography that drew on her childhood experiences in Germany and explored the socially accepted forms of violence, the hidden dangers and often-false comforts of traditional family life.”

Katja’s academic work and her contribution to life of her community were recognized in 2000 in a national award of merit given by the Senior Women Academic Administrators of Canada.

Recently, she had been teaching in the Faculty of Fine Arts, where she designed a course for non-art students. They responded to her dedication and enthusiasm with glowing reviews.

The mother of three children, she developed an art practice inspired by her daily life. “Rather than dedicate her life to art, Katja chose to dedicate her art to life,” Lerner said.

She developed an art program for women and children at a local women’s shelter. Their work resulted in a collaborative exhibition at the Maison de la Culture in Notre Dame de Grace.

As well as being an inspired teacher, Katja produced nine solo exhibitions, participated in numerous group exhibitions, presented performances and curated exhibitions.

“Katja’s art is extraordinarily powerful,” Lerner said. “As her unique creative voice evolved over the last 20 years it became clear and uncompromising while remaining deeply poetic.”

We extend our sympathies to Darcy MacLeod and Katya’s three children. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Auberge Transition, 481-0495. A memorial exhibition is being planned.