FEMALE PHOTOGRAPHERS BRING NEW VIEWS INTO FOCUS
Wave of feminism creates ‘a safe space’ for exhibit of women’s images, says co-curator
In Diana Thorneycroft’s playful and slightly unsettling piece Lucy (the lizard hunter), a strange hybrid creature sits atop a three-headed hound clutching lizards in her hand.
In Haley Eyre’s I Don’t Want to Clean, a woman in high heels and furs clutches a duster in a laundromat.
In a photograph by Heather Saitz, a pink-coloured bail-bonds business called Kiss is photographed amid a striking blue sky.
Lori Andrews’ collection of work shows the artist dressed as Wonder Woman against various backdrops.
It’s an eclectic group of images that, at first glance, don’t seem to have much of a thematic thread.
“All the group is very different, but they are grouped into themes, which when hung in the gallery everything is going to look very cohesive,” says Saitz, a Calgary photographer and co-curator of The Female Lens, a group exhibition at the Christine Klassen Gallery that opens Saturday as part of Exposure: Alberta’s Photography Festival.
We’ve had over 1,000 people who have responded to the event on Facebook, which is insane .... There’s a lot of interest.
“We actually talked about this when we were deciding which work from which artist to show. It was, ‘Pick the artist first and decide what work to show after,’ because we wanted certain people to be involved. But I think it would have been very boring if every single subject matter and every single piece was roughly the same. So this way, we’re representing some different but very common themes in the art world and photographic art world especially, but it’s done in a very cohesive manner.”
Still, the most binding thread is simply that the artists are all female. It had been six years since Saitz, an Ontario-born commercial and fine-arts photographer and art director, showcased at Exposure. In the summer, she began thinking about the sort of show she wanted to pitch to organizers.
“I thought maybe I should show with someone else, maybe I should approach one of my colleagues or someone whose work I really admire and do a collaborative thing,”
Saitz says. “Then I started brainstorming and a lot of the people whose work I really admire are women. They are people like Elyse Bouvier and Lori Andrews and Julya Hajnoczky.
“That’s where the wheels got turning, when I realized how many great women photographers in the city I was inspired by. It was important for me to find a gallery to show it in that was also female run. So that’s why I approached the Christine Klassen Gallery and even before I was finished talking, they were like, ‘Absolutely, yes.’ ”
Saitz studied photography at Sheridan College and communications design at Seneca College at York University in Toronto before moving to Calgary 16 years ago. Since then, she has established herself as a go-to photographer, with her work appearing in publications such as WestJet Magazine and the Calgary Herald’s defunct Swerve Magazine.
The Female Lens features eight other artists, bringing a wide variety of styles and tones to the exhibit. It runs the gamut, from the mystical, darkly comic work of established Winnipeg artist Thorneycroft to the exploration of how “food intersects with cultural identities” in rural Alberta by emerging photographer Elyse Bouvier, to Calgary trans artist Vivek Shraya’s series of vintage-looking self-portraits re-creating old photographs of her mother and Saitz’s own retro-style film-stock photography. The work can be satirical, poignant, thought-provoking and timely.
“We’ve had over 1,000 people who have responded to the event on Facebook, which is insane,” Saitz says.
“It’s an art opening, and I never imagined the response would be this big. Regardless of the gender side of things, I think it’s bringing to the forefront something that needs to be talked about .... The fourth wave of feminism and the #MeToo movement has really created a safe space where we’re able to do this, and there’s a lot of interest in it.”
Still, she is reluctant to say that the interest is solely based on the “resurgence of the F-word.”
“Ultimately, at the end of the day, this is just a collection of really great work,” says Saitz.
Haley Eyre’s I Don’t Want to Clean, is part of the exhibit Female Lens.
Diana Thorneycroft’s Lucy (the lizard hunter) is one of the more playful yet unsettling photographs.
Royal Cafe, an image by Elyse Bouvier, an emerging photographer in rural Alberta, is part of the exhibit Female Lens at Exposure: Alberta’s Photography Festival.