Calgary couple showcases art history with a twist
What started out as an idea to bring a few laughs to friends has now become a meaningful escape from isolation and anxiety for both the Doyles and their growing group of online supporters.
CALGARY -- Mary-Leigh and Patrick Doyle have been sharing their love of art history and humor on Facebook since the beginning of the pandemic. What started out as an idea to bring a few laughs to friends has now become a meaningful escape from isolation and anxiety for both the Doyles and their growing group of online supporters.
The couple started by posting just a handful of playful re-creations of famous art works. Mary-Leigh with a background instructing art and Patrick a drama teacher, the pair started off calling their online project “COVID art history.”
“We just wanted to entertain a few people," said Mary-Leigh. “We thought it would be good for a few laughs ourselves.”
Then the positive responses started coming in, and they discovered they were generating a few laughs among friends as well.
And let's face it, there haven't been a lot of laughs to be had since the pandemic started.
“That spurred us on," Mary-Leigh said. "We got more and more elaborate and we started citing actual art history facts and people started loving that.”
The Doyles continued this practice over the first and second of Alberta’s COVID lockdowns, posting over 100 times.
“We did it every day, without fail over the first wave.” Doyle said. “That sometimes meant some nights at nine o’clock we'd say “oh no, we haven't done the post yet! And out would come the costumes and the makeup and the camera.”
With the support and encouragement of friends and Facebook fans, the Doyles have now begun working on their third instalment of the project.
For the first two rounds of the project, Mary-Leigh was the subject for many of the posts, photoshopping her own face into a re-jigged historical work of art.
“This time around I just really felt like I was sick of the sight of my own face and so to this point I've been working exclusively with Jimmy," she said.
Jimmy is the Doyle's three-year-old sheep-a-doodle and probably the most patient and pliable dog you could ever meet. “He's been very very cooperative with the photo shoots in the past.” Mart-Leigh said with a smile, “as long as he gets a walk at the beginning of the day and a treat after the photo shoot he seems to be pretty happy.”
When asked about his own motivation, Patrick, who's made some cameos himself in the couples' posts as well as being the primary photographer, pointed to his partner and says “Her.” “Bottom line, she loves it, I love her and I want her to be happy.”
Patrick is a creative in his own right, teaching high school theatre for 25 years and it's clear he's a spark of inspiration for Mary-Leigh's artwork.
For both Patrick and Mary-Leigh the positivity and awe their work provides for their community is the reason they keep going.
“Sometimes we're tired and we've given in a little bit to some of the stress and hard times. We're missing our family terribly, we have 12 grandchildren we can't see, so we feel that but we substitute with this project and the feelings that people project onto us and our project and it's just really helped us and hopefully them.”
To see the collected works visit: https://m.facebook.com/maryleigh.doyle