Following many years dominated by a handful of governing ideas (e.g. freedom of expression, form over content), the period referred to as the post-modernist era burst onto the scene with new forms and new schools. During this period, generally defined as beginning in the late seventies, women were front and centre. Quiet and unassuming, indeed barely tolerated, through the forties and fifties, in the sixties women were pioneers toiling on the fringes. Suddenly they were in the limelight, producing art that was increasingly vibrant and, in many cases, disturbing.
Following many years dominated by a handful of governing ideas (e.g. freedom of expression, form over content), the period referred to as the post-modernist era burst onto the scene with new forms and new schools. During this period, generally defined as beginning in the late seventies, women were front and centre. Quiet and unassuming, indeed barely tolerated, through the forties and fifties, in the sixties women were pioneers toiling on the fringes. Suddenly they were in the limelight, producing art that was increasingly vibrant and, in many cases, disturbing.

© 2002, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

In the late 1970s, Louise Robert introduced into Quebec art an approach stressing the scriptural aspect of drawing. In her works, a line may suggest a flourish, a spidery scrawl or an erasure, forms that reveal writer/page affect. Often deliberately gauche or impetuous, the line translates drive and emotion, and mock writing becomes a true visual material. Louise Robert is part of a creative trend that stresses subjective expression in conjunction with exploration of a method’s foundations. Her 1980 Numéro 354, with its subtle blending of blacks and grays, suggests the broad palette of emotions that this artist evokes in her abundant pictorial output.
In the late 1970s, Louise Robert introduced into Quebec art an approach stressing the scriptural aspect of drawing. In her works, a line may suggest a flourish, a spidery scrawl or an erasure, forms that reveal writer/page affect. Often deliberately gauche or impetuous, the line translates drive and emotion, and mock writing becomes a true visual material. Louise Robert is part of a creative trend that stresses subjective expression in conjunction with exploration of a method’s foundations. Her 1980 Numéro 354, with its subtle blending of blacks and grays, suggests the broad palette of emotions that this artist evokes in her abundant pictorial output.

© 2002, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Louise Robert

Louise Robert (Montreal, Quebec, 1941—Laval-des-Rapides, Quebec). Pencil, oil pastel and acrylic on paper by Louise Robert.

Louise Robert
Photograph: Clément & Mongeau
1980
pencil, oil pastel and acrylic on paper
85.00 x 125.00 cm
© Musée d'art de Joliette Collection


American artist Kiki Smith is fascinated by the human body and discusses it clinically. Her training as a medical technician is probably a key factor in her scientific approach to human anatomy. Kiki Smith explores the various functions of an organism that she associates closely with human fragility and physical deterioration. As a result, her works repeatedly refer to the link between life and death. Using paper, steel or bronze as her medium, Kiki Smith unflinchingly exposes the physical phenomena that both captivate and repel the viewer and lead to a consideration of personal physical decline.
American artist Kiki Smith is fascinated by the human body and discusses it clinically. Her training as a medical technician is probably a key factor in her scientific approach to human anatomy. Kiki Smith explores the various functions of an organism that she associates closely with human fragility and physical deterioration. As a result, her works repeatedly refer to the link between life and death. Using paper, steel or bronze as her medium, Kiki Smith unflinchingly exposes the physical phenomena that both captivate and repel the viewer and lead to a consideration of personal physical decline.

© 2002, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Kiki Smith

Kiki Smith (Nuremberg, Germany, 1954—New York, New York). Ink on hand-made Japanese paper by Kiki Smith.

Kiki Smith
Photograph: Clément & Mongeau
1992
ink on hand-made Japanese paper
104.50 x 194.80 cm
© Musée d'art de Joliette Collection


In the 1980s, Betty Goodwin was one of the first Quebec artists to base design on the human body, a trend that grew steadily in the following decade. Goodwin, a key figure on the Canadian artistic scene, has produced a body of work noted for drawings of the human body enhanced by transparency, extension, projection and superimposition. The bodies painted and drawn by Betty Goodwin are highly evocative. When confronted with pain, they often appear to be resisting imminent destruction, as here in the figure impaled on a metal bar. In a universe in which design is deeply personified, the tension can be unbearable.
In the 1980s, Betty Goodwin was one of the first Quebec artists to base design on the human body, a trend that grew steadily in the following decade. Goodwin, a key figure on the Canadian artistic scene, has produced a body of work noted for drawings of the human body enhanced by transparency, extension, projection and superimposition. The bodies painted and drawn by Betty Goodwin are highly evocative. When confronted with pain, they often appear to be resisting imminent destruction, as here in the figure impaled on a metal bar. In a universe in which design is deeply personified, the tension can be unbearable.

© 2002, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Betty Goodwin

Betty Goodwin (Montreal, Quebec, 1923—Montreal, Quebec) Pencil and oil stick on laser print by Betty Goodwin.

Betty Goodwin
Photograph: Ginette Clément
c. 1995
pencil and oil stick on laser print
23.20 x 15.80 cm
© Musée d'art de Joliette Collection


Scott trained at the University of Calgary, and has a Masters in Fine Arts from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. Her work has often been initiated by her readings of French feminists, psychoanalytic theory, and social criticism. This particular "painting" was created by squeezing different colours of acrylic paint out of a hypodermic needle, and is part of a body of work which questioned the primacy of painting in the context of art making. Scott has taught at the Alberta College of Art and Design, the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, and the Banff Centre, and has shown a strong commitment to the Calgary art community through her involvement as an art administrator who co-founded Stride Gallery (1985-86) and founded and directed dL Gallery (1988-89).
Scott trained at the University of Calgary, and has a Masters in Fine Arts from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. Her work has often been initiated by her readings of French feminists, psychoanalytic theory, and social criticism. This particular "painting" was created by squeezing different colours of acrylic paint out of a hypodermic needle, and is part of a body of work which questioned the primacy of painting in the context of art making. Scott has taught at the Alberta College of Art and Design, the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, and the Banff Centre, and has shown a strong commitment to the Calgary art community through her involvement as an art administrator who co-founded Stride Gallery (1985-86) and founded and directed dL Gallery (1988-89).

© 2002, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Mary Scott

Mary Scott (Calgary, Alberta, 1948—Calgary, Alberta)

Mary Scott
Photograph: Glenbow Museum
1979
acrylic, plexiglass, plywood
61.00 x 93.50 cm
© Glenbow Museum Collection


Natalka Husar was born in 1951 in New Jersey, USA and moved to Canada in 1973. Husar’s Ukrainian heritage provides the underlying context for her art. Invoking a Byzantine painting reference of Madonna and Child imagery in Our Lady of Mississauga, the artist, represented as Madonna/wife, satirizes the idea of a lavish lifestyle provided for by the child/husband. The couple is in the company of an approving audience who gossip about the pair’s material success. The artist explains, "…my work is about the ironies and anxieties of people uprooted from a past and trapped by their cultural environment."

Natalka Husar was born in 1951 in New Jersey, USA and moved to Canada in 1973. Husar’s Ukrainian heritage provides the underlying context for her art. Invoking a Byzantine painting reference of Madonna and Child imagery in Our Lady of Mississauga, the artist, represented as Madonna/wife, satirizes the idea of a lavish lifestyle provided for by the child/husband. The couple is in the company of an approving audience who gossip about the pair’s material success. The artist explains, "…my work is about the ironies and anxieties of people uprooted from a past and trapped by their cultural environment."


© 2002, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Natalka Husar

Natalka Husar (USA, 1951—Canada). Oil painting on linen by Natalka Husar.

Natalka Husar
1987
oil on linen
203.20 x 203.20 cm
© Collection of the artist


Jane Ash Poitras comments, "you can take your art and create something good, and that becomes your bow and arrow." The theme of First Nations’ identity explored through personal and historical links forms the basis of her art. Poitras’ work incorporates historical and contemporary references, photographic images, newspaper clippings, and other elements. Her art seeks to reveal knowledge that helps to liberate and spiritually strengthen the community. The artist states, "Only through spiritual renewal can we find out who we really are and acquire the wisdom to eliminate the influences that bring tragedy upon us and destroy us."
Jane Ash Poitras comments, "you can take your art and create something good, and that becomes your bow and arrow." The theme of First Nations’ identity explored through personal and historical links forms the basis of her art. Poitras’ work incorporates historical and contemporary references, photographic images, newspaper clippings, and other elements. Her art seeks to reveal knowledge that helps to liberate and spiritually strengthen the community. The artist states, "Only through spiritual renewal can we find out who we really are and acquire the wisdom to eliminate the influences that bring tragedy upon us and destroy us."

© 2002, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Jane Ash Poitras

Jane Ash Poitras (1951—) Mixed media on canvas by Jane Ash Poitras.

Jane Ash Poitras
McMichael Canadian Art Collection
1999
mixed media on canvas
167.80 x 167.80 cm
© McMichael Canadian Art Collection


Video

Jane Ash Poitras (1951—)

Transcript:
"I don’t know what their issue is, and I can’t talk for them, I can only talk for myself. And for myself, I have always had dealers call me. I could select any dealer in this country right now, any dealer would love to have me. My attitude - I don’t have a negative attitude when it comes like that. I was born a great artist, I am a great artist, I see myself as a great artist, I tell people that, they look and say ’yes you are’. It’s what I project, what I radiate. The thing is that, that’s the history. We know the history. What we should be worried now is what are we going to do for tomorrow, what are we going to do today change that. I don’t really care about yesterday, I’m going to do something about it today."

Canadian Heritage Information Network
Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores, Glenbow Museum, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Musée d'art de Joliette, Louisiana State Museum

© 2002, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.


Mothers Have Courage, Daughters Take Heart - Fit to be Tied is the third component of the series The Women's Labour History Project. It speaks about the personal struggles of women in 1930s British Columbia. As Diamond has remarked, "The [series] considers the challenges that working and poor women faced during the Depression...as part of the vast unemployed, as cannery workers, domestics or agricultural labourers." Since 1994, Diamond has been Artistic Director of Media and Visual Arts at the Banff Centre. A graduate of Simon Fraser University, British Columbia, her video work has been screened in Canada, the United States, Mexico, and Europe. She has also been a curator, critic, producer, and an instructor in video production and theory. In 1995 she received the Bell Canada Video Award for Outstanding Achievement in Video. In November, 2001, she was named Woman of Vision by Spotlight Award presenters Women in Film & Video and the Wired Women Society.
Mothers Have Courage, Daughters Take Heart - Fit to be Tied is the third component of the series The Women's Labour History Project. It speaks about the personal struggles of women in 1930s British Columbia. As Diamond has remarked, "The [series] considers the challenges that working and poor women faced during the Depression...as part of the vast unemployed, as cannery workers, domestics or agricultural labourers." Since 1994, Diamond has been Artistic Director of Media and Visual Arts at the Banff Centre. A graduate of Simon Fraser University, British Columbia, her video work has been screened in Canada, the United States, Mexico, and Europe. She has also been a curator, critic, producer, and an instructor in video production and theory. In 1995 she received the Bell Canada Video Award for Outstanding Achievement in Video. In November, 2001, she was named Woman of Vision by Spotlight Award presenters Women in Film & Video and the Wired Women Society.

© 2002, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Video

"The Women's Labour History Project"

Transcript:
Ruth Bullock
:
I was very hard on women. I thought women made all together too much fuss about giving birth; and I was going to show the world how this was done.

After midnight the doctor came, and then there was a real tussle to have my baby born. Ed Matthews was annoyed....

Character of the husband (said to the character of the Doctor):
Its all right for you to say that Jean’s got to have special care and nurse and all, its been special care for the past five months!

Ruth Bullock:
If the child had been a son, he would have been very pleased with it and he would have taken to the child. But, since it was a daughter, it was still my child and I had better look after it. I was fit to be tied, I was so damn angry! My birth had been so horrific, I had never been able to carry a child again. I became pregnant but I would lose at six weeks and two months. Oh, and I had to fight with my doctor to be able to get a pessary so that I would not repeat this problem. He said, "Mrs. Matthews, when you have four children, come to me, and I will cheerfully give you this information. But you are a young woman, and there is no reason why you shouldn’t have more children." But I did persuade him, I was fitted with a pessary, with a diaphragm-type of pessary and it cost me $35.00, which was a huge amount in those days. Then a few years later I met with Vivian Dowdy, who was working for the birth control movement, at great personal peril I may tell you. Because in those days it was not even legal to give birth control information to married women, let alone any other woman. Incidentally, I discovered that the pessary with which I had been fitted could be bought from the Koffman Rubber Company for .35 cents!

Sara Diamond
Collection of Glenbow Museum, acquired using the Sybil Andrews’ Fund
1995
© Collection of Glenbow Museum


Irene Whittome, a multi-disciplinary artist, made her mark in the early 1970s by defying conventional practice and exploring a sort of archeology of Western rationality, questioning its methods of calculation, classification and conservation. Irene Whittome often works with found objects to which she gives new meaning. Concepts of duration, memory and origin abound in her work. Individual Mythologian is an oriental piece made up of pages from a Latin dictionary glued to the support and enhanced by bold black and red lines that create an imposing calligraphy and give the work enormous intensity. In this series, the artist describes or invents her own mythology.
Irene Whittome, a multi-disciplinary artist, made her mark in the early 1970s by defying conventional practice and exploring a sort of archeology of Western rationality, questioning its methods of calculation, classification and conservation. Irene Whittome often works with found objects to which she gives new meaning. Concepts of duration, memory and origin abound in her work. Individual Mythologian is an oriental piece made up of pages from a Latin dictionary glued to the support and enhanced by bold black and red lines that create an imposing calligraphy and give the work enormous intensity. In this series, the artist describes or invents her own mythology.

© 2002, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Irene F. Whittome

Irene F. Whittome (Vancouver, British Columbia, 1942—Montreal, Quebec). Gouache and book pages glued to paper by Irene F. Whittome.

Irene F. Whittome
Photograph: Ginette Clément
1985
gouache and book pages glued to paper
158.80 x 98.10 cm
© SODART 2002, Musée d'art de Joliette Collection. Gift of Marcia Schaefer


Over the past fifteen years, Monique Mongeau’s favourite subject has been nature. In this series devoted to a pear motif, she explores the appearance of the meaty and extremely fragile fruit. The plant world gives her an opportunity to produce works that, even when small in size (not the case here) emerge as monumental, i.e. deeply evocative. In the works of Monique Mongeau, beauty, strength and fragility are blended in sumptuous images that have a tragic aspect because she sees nature as the ultimate symbol of the impermanence of life.
Over the past fifteen years, Monique Mongeau’s favourite subject has been nature. In this series devoted to a pear motif, she explores the appearance of the meaty and extremely fragile fruit. The plant world gives her an opportunity to produce works that, even when small in size (not the case here) emerge as monumental, i.e. deeply evocative. In the works of Monique Mongeau, beauty, strength and fragility are blended in sumptuous images that have a tragic aspect because she sees nature as the ultimate symbol of the impermanence of life.

© 2002, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Monique Mongeau

Monique Mongeau (Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec, 1940—Outremont, Quebec). Oil and wax on birch panel by Monique Mongeau.

Monique Mongeau
Photograph: Richard-Max Tremblay
1993
oil and wax on birch panel
244.00 x 366.00 cm
2000.001.1-3
© Musée d'art de Joliette Collection


Learning Objectives

The learner will:

  • Analyze works of art with the issue of gender in mind
  • Be aware of the role of women as they relate to their culture
  • Be conscious of the emotional impact that is caused and shaped by a work of art
  • Understand the issues surrounding the history and making of art by women
  • Explain the emergence and meaning of feminism in art and art history
  • Interpret meaning in women’s art and in women’s lives through art
  • Be aware of the challenges women have faced to be recognized as reputable in art history
  • Discuss how postmodernism in art is characterized by new and vibrant art forms
  • Understand that women were significant pioneers of postmodern art

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