Stealing the Show

Stealing the Show: Seven Women Artists in Canadian Public Art

Copyright Date: 1994
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Stealing the Show
    Book Description:

    In the past, few women artists were commissioned to create public works of art. These seven artists received most of the commissions awarded to women between 1958 and 1988, although until now their sizable body of work has been given little attention. Taking into account the purpose of public art - to enhance the environment and communicate with a public often perplexed and sometimes alienated by works of art - Gunda Lambton assesses the appeal and quality of commissioned works by these artists. She highlights the difficulties that many women artists encounter and combines detailed biographies of the artists with an examination of their work.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6473-2
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. [Illustrations]
    (pp. xiii-2)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 3-14)

    The qualities in women’s art described above by Lucy Lippard are the very qualities we seek in public art. In fact, the following examination of the public art of seven women artists is the result of an earlier enquiry into public art in general, its possibilities, prerequisites, and shortcomings, the controversies that have arisen over the subject in recent years, and the variety of ways public art is perceived in a country like Canada, which covers such a vast area and comprises such a multitude of cultural identities.

    The number of women artists who received public commissions in the last...

  8. CHAPTER ONE Marcelle ferron
    (pp. 15-33)

    With this remark, made with reference to one of her public commissions, Marcelle Ferron expressed her willingness to share with society the aspect of her art that she sees as most significant: “To me, colour is life. It is most important.”² Instead of expressing only her own feelings, Ferron is willing to communicate with others through her sense of colour to facilitate universal self-expression, an important aspect of public art.

    As mentioned in the introduction, colour is one of the most personal, the most elusive, elements in visual communication. Perception of colour varies not only from society to society but...

  9. CHAPTER TWO Anne Kahane: Humour and the Human Condition
    (pp. 34-49)

    The sculptor Anne Kahane has received numerous commissions for public art: three of them federal, one from a university, two from corporations, and two (for Expo ’67 and Place des Arts, Montreal) from corporations that used a mixture of private and public funds.

    Sculpture, in stone and bronze, has long played a prominent part in public art; as noted earlier, the public commissions given to Frances Loring, Florence Whyle, and Elizabeth Wyn Wood gained recognition for women sculptors even before World War II. But Kahane’s aesthetic was different from that of these sculptors, different too from that of Marcelle Ferron,...

  10. CHAPTER THREE Rita Letendre: Vibrations Colorées
    (pp. 50-64)

    The dynamics in Rita Letendre’s public art, as in all her work, are caused by tension between colours. Unlike Ferron, she makes no distinction between paintings for public spaces and those created to express herself. While Ferron transformed public areas through colours that transmit direct light, Letendre in her public and private art used reflected colour in a way that provides the viewer with what might be called a “total experience” of colour. It is important to experience her work in its full dimensions, for the large space her work occupies forces the eye to travel from one part of...

  11. CHAPTER FOUR Gathie Falk: A Giver of Gifts
    (pp. 65-80)

    Gathie Falk’s public art deals with the complexities of the relationship between artist and public. While Letendre appeals through the direct experience of colour, Falk appeals to the imagination. She makes us take another look at the complex world around us, particularly at things we take for granted. Using a large variety of media – painting, textiles, ceramics – she endows what we think of as ordinary objects in everyday life with a magical significance. She gives a voice to everyday experiences from which no one is excluded. Many everyday objects are household items, and so she seems to evoke a feminine...

  12. CHAPTER FIVE Joyce Wieland: Ecology, Feminism, Nationalism
    (pp. 81-97)

    With these words Pierre Théberge described a significant aspect of Joyce Wieland’s art, particularly her public art. Wieland has been trying to develop a voice to express her society. The shamanistic function of her art is more deliberate, less mysterious, than Gathie Falk’s magic making, which assumes many disguises.

    Wieland’s public art is remarkable for its commitment to issues of ecology and nationalism, and to a woman’s vision. The three issues are presented as near-identical, all of them threatened by our carelessness, indifference, and consumer madness. To express her social commitments Wieland has sometimes mixed verbal and visual language, using...

  13. CHAPTER SIX Jerry Grey
    (pp. 98-111)

    The Great Canadian Equalizer(Figure 18), to which the artist Jerry Grey refers with this remark, lacked neither sophistication nor aesthetic value; it did, however, make an appeal to viewers that depended less on their sophistication than on their willingness to enter a visual experience because of their interest in the artist’s theme. Like Wieland and Falk, Grey uses some of her public art to provoke thought.

    Grey shares Wieland’s nationalism, but celebrates rather than defends it. Like Wieland she had a period of close association with international art. Ideas about space and structure brought to the Prairie provinces by...

  14. CHAPTER SEVEN Colette Whiten: Public Participation in Public Art
    (pp. 112-126)

    The importance of sculpture in public art is undeniable. It is often more suitable for an outdoor monument than painting. Through its three-dimensional quality and, often, its materials, it relates to architecture, either by conformity or contrast. The human figure has been the main subject of many sculptors, most of the time – as in Kahane’s work – as model or formal idea, stimulating the artist’s imagination, while the sculpture itself is the artist’s invention and creation.

    As mentioned in the introduction, when Colette Whiten developed as sculptor, a process of dematerialization of art had begun, relocating it from a private to...

  15. Epilogue
    (pp. 127-136)

    The preceding chapters, which started as an examination of the public art of seven Canadian women artists, very soon became a celebration of their work. Research on public art in general disclosed numerous controversies, debates expressing hostility, bewilderment, and malaise, as mentioned in my introduction. Controversy has at times led to the complete removal of a publicly displayed work of art, as detailed below. I found no such controversy regarding the work of the seven subjects of this book.

    Successful public art is largely dependent on teamwork. If either architects or artists see themselves as stars, collaboration can become flawed....

    (pp. 137-137)
    (pp. 138-142)
    (pp. 143-184)
  19. Notes
    (pp. 185-196)
  20. Bibliography
    (pp. 197-206)
  21. Index
    (pp. 207-215)