Who's your Mother? Art show celebrates female P.E.I. artists
'It's a major exhibition and a really respectful gesture from the gallery'
The Confederation Centre Art Gallery is turning a P.E.I. question on its head with its new exhibit Who's Your Mother? Women Artists of P.E.I., 1964 to the Present.
The gallery had been publicly criticized in the past for not collecting enough women artists.
"I decided to look into our collection and it seems that since that time we have very much a 50-50 ratio, maybe even more women artists being collected than men," said Pan Wendt, curator at the gallery. "But in the past, that wasn't necessarily the case."
So Wendt and curator-in-residence Lisa Theriault spent the entire summer researching the history of art exhibitions and production on P.E.I. since 1964.
"We did realize there were quite a few artists that weren't in our collection that possibly should be," Wendt said.
Our icon Anne of Green Gables is a sort of pre-feminist feminist, so I think it's appropriate that this is happening here.— Pan Wendt
So he and Theriault shifted gears and began visiting studios across P.E.I., meeting with more than 20 artists of all ages and career stages.
They ended up purchasing from 13 new artists — a "large acquisition" for the gallery, one that will use all of its annual budget for new purchases.
The result is that one third of the 39 artists in the show are new to the Centre's collection.
Being part of the Centre's collection is a big deal because the gallery is the art collection "of record" for P.E.I., Wendt said.
Now, the gallery has tipped the balance and has more women artists from P.E.I. than men.
"It's a continuing, ongoing process of trying to right inequalities," Wendt said. "Our icon Anne of Green Gables is a sort of pre-feminist feminist, so I think it's appropriate that this is happening here.
"Both Hilda Woolnough and Erica Rutherford have a large section of the show as kind of mother figures," Wendt said.
'Doors are opening up'
Anna Karpinski is a documentary photographer and shoots on film for her art photos. She's thrilled to have work included in the show.
"It just feels good to be part of the larger picture, and I'm happy that my work can be included in that," she said. "It's inspiring to do more work, too."
Her four photos are from a series she did in 2014 called Keep Your Stick on the Ice in which she documented girls playing hockey.
"Girls have more choices now. If they want to play hockey, they can," Karpinski said. "I hope that image of a woman can be as iconic in our national idea of hockey."
She agrees with Wendt the time is right for an exhibition promoting women artists.
"It feels like doors are opening up," Karpinski said. "When people aren't talking about women needing to be equal, when that conversation stops, you know that we are. Because it's still happening, you know that it needs to be happening."
'Really respectful gesture'
Monica Lacey has been a professional artist for seven years. The show includes her photograph Adam and Marty from her series Couples on Couches.
"It's an incredible group to be included in — a lot of the artists in the show were mentors to me when I was really small," said Lacey, who counts Harrison, Woolnough and Mary Basiletti among her influences.
"It's a discussion that's of the moment and really a major thing that's happening right now is reclaiming space and reclaiming their voices," said Lacey.
"Both as a woman and as an artist, I would say it's a major exhibition and a really respectful gesture from the gallery."