Campus Life

Lasting Images - Joyce Wieland

An excerpt from a conversation between Josephine Mills (Director/Curator of the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery) and Canadian artist Allyson Mitchell (whose exhibition Ladies Sasquatch is on display in the U of L Main Gallery until Oct. 30, 2009).

JM: I am often asked if I have a favourite work in the University of Lethbridge Art Collection and, although it is hard to pin down just one, Joyce Wieland's "Young Woman's Blues" usually wins out as my answer. Partly it is this specific work and partly it is that Wieland was such an amazing artist. She was truly revolutionary as a female artist that refused to be easily categorized. Wieland took a strong stance as a feminist, but she also addressed so many things like U.S. imperialism, Canadian nationalism and the art/craft divide.

AM: I selected Wieland's "O Canada" because I think that it works well with many of the themes that the Ladies Sasquatch exhibition explores. "O Canada" reconfigures femininity – the blotted lipstick used to articulate the national anthem places women (or perhaps a particular kind of woman) at the centre of the piece. This goes against the conventions of traditional, quintessentially "Canadian" art, in which the landscape is often articulated as a rugged, active and even masculine one. Wieland's print contradicts this message, as does the Ladies Sasquatch exhibition. The sasquatches reassert a feminized (albeit non-stereotypical) kind of body into the mythology of the Canadian wilderness, so that environment becomes a place for women rather than men.

JM: I think there is a wonderful connection between Wieland's work and yours. Both of you succeed in these kinds of reconfigurations because of the humour and sense of play in your work. The topic and the effect on people are serious, but the viewing experience is based on the audience having fun with these ideas.

AM: I love Wieland's "O Canada" because its sense of humour allows for a sharp and intelligent political critique without being off-putting or didactic for the viewer. This subtlety makes it more persuasive. "O Canada" is a fantastic piece because it subverts and blows up the scale of the body, transforming it from personal and private to public and national.