First published:Winter 1998
Inside the walls of a Quebec City psychiatric hospital, a troubling yet fascinating world has unravelled. For the past two years, a fifty-nine year-old self-taught artist with schizophrenia is engrossed in his greatest achievement and legacy: a fantasy and delusional world obsessed with children. In order to better appreciate Mr. Wilkie's art, I will briefly introduce elements of his life on the edge. Born in 1939 in Montreal, Canada, Roland Claude Wilkie is the second youngest of five siblings, with four older brothers and a baby sister, Jocelyne, who died when he was three years old. Regarding the only family portrait Mr. Wilkie owns he added the following annotations: 'Liturgy to the dead. Tribute to my sister Jocelyne who died when she was two years old. Tribute to my deceased father Duncan Wilkie, who I miss terribly'.
He claims to have had very little or no contact with his sister due to illness, having spent a good part of his first three years of life in hospital 'strapped to a [pediatric] harness'. Mr. Wilkie will return to wearing a harness at the age of fifty-three. To this day, Mr. Wilkie says of his sister Jocelyne '...she is always present in my mind'. The importance of this loss is self-evident in a work called 'My sister Jocelyne as I see her' in which Mr. Wilkie portrays himself as a young boy wrapped in his sister's loving protection. His father, who worked for a shipbuilding company, died of tuberculosis when Mr. Wilkie was two years old. Ships occasionally appear in the background of his drawings.