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JOURNAL beyond borders

CANADA

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Dufferin North Gallery, Toronto
June 10 – July 12, 1998

Linda Abrahams, Curator and Co-director Women’s Art Resource Center
Kate Brown, WBB Artist/Coordinator
Fay Cromwell, Co-director Women’s Art Resource Center
Mary Thorn, Dufferin Mall Management
Evangeline Wong, Coordinator of Visual Arts Toronto School District

 

VISUAL ART AS AMBASSADOR

Linda Abrahams
Ever since pictorial records were etched on ancient cave walls, visual art as communicator and ambassador has remained as constant as the human urge to seek ways of knowing. As we now approach the millennium, the exhibition Women Beyond Borders stirs an evocative reconsideration of that time-honored feminist adage: the personal is political. This exhibition expresses tangibly how what we share in common and what we need for a sustaining diversity can coalesce in a natural state of fullness.

 

canada-dufferin-mallTraveling from a temple in Nepal to a gallery at the Dufferin Mall in Toronto, WBB fully lived up to its vision. Such unique exhibition sites reached out to develop a new relationship between the artist and the viewer and included many who would not otherwise have visited a traditional cultural institution. Another important component of the Canadian exhibition involved hundreds of students from across the city of Toronto visiting the gallery to create their own works of art in the form of miniature boxes. As a result, in the true spirit of WBB, Students Beyond Borders came into being. Looking beyond borders, we can see how one thing leads to another.

 

Shirley Bear – Two Virgins, 1998, Canada

Canada’s own multi-cultural contribution to WBB aptly reflects the rich diversity of contemporary Canadian art practice. Our participating artists explored beyond the borders of time and place, with each unique box creating a link along a continuum that extended from exploring ancestral roots to empowering us conceptually to imagine what we don’t yet know.

 

The nineteen participating artists curated from across Canada include Shirley Bear and Rebecca Baird who celebrated their aboriginal heritage, with Baird examining the complexity of one’s cultural memory and Shirley Bear contemplating the potent relationship between aboriginal spirituality and healing.

 

Works by both Winsom and Buseje Bailey reflect their African heritage. Ancestral spiritual tradition informs and transforms to become the signature of what is contemporary for Winsom, while Bailey inscribes a historical tracing of her personal/political process of empowerment.

 

Reni Packer, as an artist of dual citizenship, probes the role of icons of national identity in the context of cultural displacement and assimilation. The buoyant energy and sharp wit of artist Kristine Erglis engages the viewer to break through prescribed barriers and stereotypical perceptions of disabilities. Artist Catherine Widgery reflects upon her sense of ecology, her box now depicting an environmental locus of rootedness. In Linda Edward’s contribution, the viewer is poignantly invited to share the personal. The artist’s breast tissue, encapsulated, arrests our attention to provoke thoughtful consideration of the condition of women’s health.

 

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Both Nancy Paterson and Sandy Smirle’s tribute to technology examine the relationship between sensory intuition and mechanical manipulation. Paterson chooses to put a lid on technology, literally nailing it shut to lock down the computer chip, while Smirle chooses to keep the human touch, via a light switch, connected to the bright ideas of science. In artist Kate Brown’s conceptual framework, boundaries become mutable, as elemental essences give way to imaginable form.

 

All of these artists, along with their many WBB Canada and worldwide colleagues, shared a distinguished consciousness of community, creating the genesis of a global consciousness that borders with all their powers can no longer keep contained. The exhibition WBB invites the viewer to imagine.

 

WBB celebration dinner after the opening in Toronto
WBB celebration dinner after the opening in Toronto