Education

A school failure

ROBERT SHEPPARD July 6 1998
Education

A school failure

ROBERT SHEPPARD July 6 1998

Flourishing far from home

People

TANYA DAVIES

In 1947, artists Leonard and Reva Brooks, a married couple in their mid-30s, left their native Canada for what was supposed to be a year in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Leonard had recently returned from Europe, where he was an official artist for the Royal Canadian Navy during the Second World War. Frustrated in his job as a Toronto art teacher, he wanted the freedom to create all day. So when Reva discovered she couldn’t have children, the couple decided to take a risk and spend some time in Mexico. "I got a grant from the veterans affairs department for $80 a month,’’ recalls Leonard, now 86. “Reva and I thought we could live more frugally in Mexico.”

That adventure turned into a permanent change of address. The Brookses are now the unofficial patriarch and matriarch of the large expatriate artist community in San Miguel, where the two have created internationally celebrated work. Leonard’s paintings hang in collections around the world. And Reva, 85, is considered one of North America’s top female photographers. In fact, the reason for the couple’s return to Canada this year is an exhibit of Reva’s work at Toronto’s Stephen Bulger Gallery and her involvement in a group show at the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography in Ottawa, running until Sept. 20.

Reva began taking pictures when Leonard bought her a secondhand Rollicord camera so that she could photograph their travels in Mexico and his paintings. “It was fate,” says Reva, who focused on poor mothers and their children in San Miguel. “I never took a picture without first establishing a communion with my subject.” By 1950, she was so accomplished that the Museum of Modern Art in New York City purchased two of her black-and-white pictures. And in the late 1950s, she was invited to study with photography greats Edward Weston and Ansel Adams in California.

Still, fame has eluded the couple in Canada— until now, with the photo exhibits and two forthcoming biographies. Meanwhile, in 1992 the pair established the Leonard and Reva Brooks Foundation at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., to maintain and display their combined work. “We have always felt Canadian,” says Reva. “And the funny thing is that in other countries we are always called ‘the Canadian artists.’ ’’ Now, finally, they are starting to get some recognition at home.

Cancer Man is a nice guy

Name: William B. Davis. Occupation: playing the Cigarette-Smoking Man, aka Cancer Man, on The X-Files and in the new hit movie based on the television series. Salient trait: for an actor who plays a nefarious, chainsmoking government operative, Davis is one heck of a nice guy. “I don’t know where the character comes from,” he says with a good-natured chuckle. “But as an actor, I know one draws from oneself, so it must be in there somewhere.” Then again, Davis is full of surprises. For one thing, he doesn’t smoke—he quit 20 years ago, and is now a spokesman for the Canadian Cancer Society. And he is a teacher, not a traitor: at his William Davis Centre for Actor’s Studies in home-town Vancouver, he encourages “a nurturing approach.” Another out-of-

character factoid: Davis, 60, is a Canadian national champion water-skier in his division. And, unlike his shadowy character, Davis claims he doesn’t know all the secrets about The X-Files— like whether FBI agents Scully and Mulder will ever get together romantically. The reason: he just doesn’t know—and neither does anybody else on the show. ‘We have nearly finished shooting the first part of a two-part episode and we still haven’t seen the script for the second—not because it’s top secret, but because it’s not done yet,” says Davis. “We pretty much make it up as we go.” Finally, the truth.