Copyright © 1997. All Rights Reserved.
Going both ways
Trio of grads put gender questions in a general voice
by Anne Severson
Nickle Arts Museum
August 15 - September 28, 1997
Opening: September 12, 4:30
Three women, three voices. The MFA graduating exhibition at the University of Calgary this year presents women's viewpoints within our Canadian society.
Charmaine Laboucane quietly comments: "Listen to me. I have something to say." Marilyn Grabinsky adds "We exist in our own context." Suzann Grierson subtly reveals hidden layers of meaning in the "earthly existence" of a dress and a house.
The quiet power of constructed knowledge makes a strong statement. Do you have to be a woman to understand the meanings behind the work? Not so. The graduates indicate social constructs that are prevalent for both genders in our culture, only this time from a women's point of view instead of the more traditional male view. They are asking the viewer to be aware of the constricting nature of entrenched attitudes.
Grierson addresses the duality of women as social constructs in her Site and Self exhibition. Her sexy dress speaks on the physicality of woman's relationships with man, as opposed to the domesticity of the house. The textured graphite-rubbings hide layers of meaning known only to her, but open to interpretation by the viewer.
Laboucane's Whispers Into Words is about visual and textural expression of a woman's voice in the context of the world. "The person inside" is revealed through words that lead to a daily journal on rice paper and fabric stacked in open trunks in the first room. The fourth trunk, empty, is closed, representing silence, a source of "strength and calmness." After reading books such as the Glass Ceiling, Laboucane realized she was not alone. She knows she is "only just beginning."
Her second burgundy room is hung salon-style and provides a surface "misrepresentation of my fragmented self as a whole. It's everyday questions such as 'Who am I?' Only there isn't an answer, and if there is, it's never good enough."
Grabinsky's colorful paintings question the traditions of women and, on a second layer, of paintings. Established paint-on-canvas is challenged with hanging columns of paint as well as glass-topped tables with removable painted tablecloths and placemats. "The Writing Table" has place-settings of transparent poems, waiting to be picked up and read by the viewer. The table, the paint and the poems integrate art and life. On "The Reading Table," a glass-enclosed Women's Ways of Knowing refers specifically to women, but is applicable to men, too, if only they will remove the transparent glass barrier they have set up for themselves because "it's a girl-thing." Time to reexamine life and relationships as changeable social constructs for everyone and not just a "guy-thing or a girl-thing."
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