Published on March 28, 2015 | by Chidera Ukairo Photography by Chidera Ukairo0
Feminism Through Art
A Conference With A Message
You are not here.
Regent Park’s cultural center, Daniels Spectrum has a new art exhibit focusing on women and the various issues they face.
The Feminist Art Conference is a non-profit volunteer-based organization in Toronto responsible for bringing artists together to talk about feminism through art. Their recent exhibit titled You’re Not Here has over 20 participating artists.
Carol Mark is a Toronto art activist for women and children’s human rights. Her chosen form of art is photography.
“I always used it as a message for change in the world,” she said.
The piece she has on display is a collage of bundle buggies, small portable grocery carts, over a blue background with numbers running down the middle.
Mark said it was inspired by her experience while living in Toronto.
“I grew up in Toronto and I see all these homeless women walking around with these bundle buggies. I started recognizing their faces, they were very neat and clean but they were homeless,” she said.
Mark explained the women she would see were not your typical homeless people and she assumed they had no access to social services and that bothered her.
She said she incorporated the numbers in her piece because they are statistics about the homeless people worldwide.
Mark graduated from the University of Toronto and has been a working artist for over 10 years, using her art to raise money for humanitarian aid like partnering with FemAid to build a girls library in Afghanistan.
St. Catharines based artist Carrie Perreault, has a wide range of forms she adopts when creating art.
Her work on display is a still image titled Because Someone Had To Believe, which was taken from a video she created while visiting Cambodia.
Her interest in the country’s political structure and state violence led to the creation of the video, which is about a protest she witnessed. She said the protest was in response to the news that Yorm Bopha, a female activist had been arrested and sentenced to three years in prison for being an activist.
“A group of about 20,000 people had their land taken from them and it was mostly women and children who were affected by it and they are the poorest people in the city,” she said.
Perreault graduated from Brock University with a Bachelor of Arts.
Helene Vosters, a Winnipeg artist, activist and scholar has her work titled Flag of Tears featured at the exhibit.
The piece is made up of the Canadian flag with shapes of teardrops and blood sewn in with red thread.
“I thought about the way the Canadian flag in particular is almost like a brand. There’s something so innocent about it,” she said. She believes the flag makes the things that are not innocent about Canada invisible.
Vosters gave an example of how there are many missing and murdered Aboriginal women. She said it surprises her that they are so disproportionally represented, and that there is not more outrage about it.
She said her art focuses on memorials and issues of whom we remember and whom we forget. She said she uses her work as memorials for the forgotten.
Vosters is currently a Doctor of Philosophy candidate at York University and has been an artist for about 20 years, with a majority of that time spent in performance art.
Toronto artist Maureen Da Silva takes on the print making form of art, specifically lithography and silkscreen. She said her art is inspired by popular culture filtered through a feminist lens.
Her display titled Persistence of Gender Trouble is a silkscreened print series. It has images of a boxer and images of boxing gloves arranged in a pattern.
She said, “I was having a conversation about a particular issue women in contact sports or track and field have with having to sort of prove their femininity.”
“I came across [boxer] Marlen Esparza and she had this beautiful spread in Vogue where she was fully boxing but they had her in a ball gown,” she said.
Da Silva said in her work she put Esparza back in the boxing shorts. She explained she created the piece to question why society needs women to express their femininity in these types of sports.
She graduated from York University’s Bachelor of Fine Arts program in 2008 and completed her Masters of Arts at the University of Toronto in 2009.
Ottawa based artist Shelby Lisk uses photography as a personal investigation into identity. She grew up in Belleville and is from the Tyendinaga Mohawk Nation.
“My art is inspired by what is consuming my thoughts at that time, more specifically, other female artists. I read a lot of feminist theory and literature and I am fascinated with the stories that women have to tell about their lives, both past and present,” she said.
Lisk explained the work she has on display is a production of the connection she made between the name of the exhibit and idea of displacement in Canadian history in relation to Indigenous people.
“For this project, I went back to Tyendinaga. I was searching for some trace of myself, of something I could call home; of something I missed by not growing up there, for a connection. I made these ghost-like photographs to symbolize my search,” she said.
Lisk will be graduating this spring with a Bachelor of Fine Arts and minor in Feminist Studies from the University of Ottawa.
Jordana Franklin is the curator for the exhibit and has been a curator for three years.
She said relocation was chosen as the theme of the exhibit so it would resonate with members of the Regent Park community. She said the city’s revitalization plan had forced a lot of residents to move out of the area.
“As we explored this theme of relocation, we realized that so many of the issues that feminism strives to confront are encapsulated by this idea of being here, whether it is fighting on behalf of missing women, or reinserting women’s stories back into the narrative,” she said.
Franklin said she curated the exhibit not only to have it coincide with International Women’s Day on March 8 but also to ignite the memory of missing, murdered, and neglected women.
The exhibit will run until March 31, 2015.