May 12, 2022 (OTTAWA) – This National Nurses’ Week, the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions is celebrating the determination and perseverance of nurses who, for more than two years, have been on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a tribute to their herculean efforts, the organization is unveiling a painting it commissioned from Canadian artist Kris Knight.
The painting, titled “Embrace”, captures two nurses buried under layers of personal protective equipment, and entwined in a hug – a rare comfort that sometimes ran against established policies.
“Nurses have lived through a tremendously tumultuous period,” explained CFNU President Linda Silas. “For over two years now, unspeakable heartache has too often eclipsed small heartwarming moments.”
“But it was these small comforting and uplifting seconds – these small flickers of light in our darkest hours – that kept nurses going despite significant adversity.”
Silas added that the CFNU felt it was important to capture these moments and celebrate them as a symbol of the invaluable solidarity and kinship nurses find amongst each other.
The artwork was conceived and painted by Kris Knight, a Canadian artist internationally known for his emotive portraits and figurative paintings. The CFNU reached out to Knight for this project, based on his unique ability to capture intensely poignant moments and bring them to life on canvas.
Knight is a graduate of the Ontario College of Art and Design and has exhibited internationally over the last decade with solo exhibitions in Toronto, New York, Miami and Paris.
“When the CFNU approached me for this project, I was immediately reminded of the hospital workers in my family and how COVID-19 had drastically changed their working conditions,” explained Knight. “During the pandemic, one of my sisters, who is a nurse, texted me a photo of her and her favourite co-worker to show off their new work attire; they were exhausted, under mountains of PPE, but still smiling.”
“Their strong bond sustained them. Their resilience, solidarity and support for one another inspired this piece.”
Knight noted that the work is also a nod to the importance of hugs and touch – something that many Canadians lost during the pandemic – but that nurses could luckily still find solace in, safely nestled under layers of PPE.
The CFNU hopes that this work can be donated to a public collection, which would allow it to be seen and appreciated by a larger public and preserved as an important piece of Canadian history.
“Throughout the pandemic, I’ve heard from countless nurses that the support of their colleagues – a hug, an attentive ear, a knowing glance – is what kept them going,” recounted Silas.
“These small gestures made all the difference in the world, and we’re so thrilled to pay tribute to them with this painting in celebration of National Nursing Week.”
The CFNU is Canada’s largest nurses’ organization, representing Canada’s frontline nurses in every sector of health care – from home care, LTC, community and acute care, including nursing students – and advocating on key health priorities and federal engagement in the future of public health care.