‘Right­ing the ship’

‘Who’s Your Mother? Women Artists of P.E.I., 1964 to the Present’ bal­ances the col­lect­ing prac­tices of the Con­fed­er­a­tion Cen­tre Art Gallery by adding 19 new works by fe­male artists to the per­ma­nent col­lec­tion

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - ISLAND WEEKEND GO - BY SALLY COLE sally.cole@The­Guardian.pe.ca Twit­ter.com/Sal­lyForth57

Walk­ing through the Up­per East Gallery of the Con­fed­er­a­tion Cen­tre Art Gallery, it’s easy to get ex­cited by a new ex­hi­bi­tion fea­tur­ing the work of P.E.I. women artists.

At the show en­trance, there’s Elaine Har­ri­son’s self-por­trait and “Fern­wood in Win­ter”.

Around the cor­ner, there’s Daphne Irv­ing’s colour­ful “North River Hay Mo­tif” and Ge­orgie Read Bar­ton’s, “Sand Dunes”, as well as Hilda Wool­nough’s “But­ter­fly No. 3”, which hangs nearby.

Move closer to the cen­tre (or along the sides) of the ex­hi­bi­tion,

and things get even more ex­cit­ing.

That’s be­cause it shines a light on the 19 new works by fe­male artists, re­cently pur­chased and added to the gallery’s per­ma­nent col­lec­tion. They range from Pa­tri­cia Bourque’s black and pho­to­graph, “See’er”, Heather Mil­lar’s por­trait of “May Fos­ter”, from her Aus­tralian women con­vict se­ries and Norma Jean Ma­cLean’s paint­ing, “Re­bound Court” to Sandy Kowa­lik’s sculp­ture, “Pair of Pears”, and oth­ers too nu­mer­ous to men­tion.

“The se­lec­tion re­veals the ex­tra­or­di­nary growth of art­mak­ing by women on the Is­land, over the past five decades and the di­ver­sity and strength of the work pro­duced,” state Lisa The­ri­ault and Pan Wendt, co-cu­ra­tors of “Who’s Your Mother? Women Artists of P.E.I., 1964 to the present”, in the open­ing panel of the ex­hi­bi­tion that runs un­til June 2.

Mari Basiletti is happy to be one of the artists whose work has been added to the per­ma­nent col­lec­tion.

“It means that the gallery is in­vest­ing in the artists who live here now and car­ry­ing their work for­ward, per­ma­nently,” says the artist, stand­ing next to “The Mo­jave, Nee­dles to Barstow”, the panoramic oil and Ma­sonite paint­ing of a woman driv­ing a car across the Cal­i­for­nia desert by car, on her way to Los An­ge­les.

In the past, Basiletti’s artis­tic drive has been re­warded by hav­ing her work se­lected for Prince Ed­ward Is­land Art Bank and the Art in the Schools pro­gram.

But, this is a dif­fer­ent kind of thing, she says.

“To be part of the per­ma­nent col­lec­tion means that the work will come out from time to time and be in ex­hibits. So, to be part of the women’s show, which was mounted this fall, is just a thrill.”

Tex­tile artist Cather­ine Miller is also pleased.

“I’m proud they have cho­sen a piece of mine,” says Miller, point­ing to “Mak­ing Lists”. Fash­ioned from silk and thread, the in­stal­la­tion re­sem­bles a mo­bile with pieces flut­ter­ing through the air, from a canopy over­head.

Each silk panel con­tains a writ­ten list.

“Lists pro­vide a pic­ture of our ev­ery­day life, whether I have to go pick up my son, pick up an onion on the way home or phone my mother.”

Miller says hav­ing “Mak­ing Lists” picked for the show (and the col­lec­tion) came as a pleas­ant sur­prise to her.

“Tex­tile artists aren’t of­ten thought of as (cre­at­ing) fine art. But, I think those rules might be break­ing down over the last few years. In the past, tex­tile art and peo­ple who work with tex­tiles, which in North Amer­ica are mostly women, weren’t per­ceived the same way as those who did oil on can­vas.”

Yes, the times are chang­ing at the Con­fed­er­a­tion Cen­tre Art Gallery, says Wendt.

“It’s im­por­tant for us to make an in­ter­ven­tion be­cause a pub­lic col­lec­tion re­flects art­mak­ing here and we want to re­flect that ac­cu­rately. We felt there was an im­bal­ance in col­lect­ing in the past, so we wanted to right the ship, as it were, with women’s works,” says the cocu­ra­tor.

Artist JoDee Sa­muel­son also en­joys hav­ing her work at the Con­fed­er­a­tion Cen­tre Art Gallery.

“It feels great, and I hope they want some more,” says vis­ual artist who has mixed real el­e­ments – straw, wood and a P.E.I. news­pa­per– into her oil and Ma­sonite paint­ing, “The Guardian, 1980, which shows a hen in a nest­ing box, car­ing for her chicks.

“It was in­spired by liv­ing on a farm and he had hens and chicks. I paint any­thing that is around me, just like I do to­day.”

To­day as Wendt re­flects on the show, he’s feel­ing very pos­i­tive.

“It’s a par­tic­u­larly re­ward­ing project. There was a lot of work that went into it. For me, hav­ing lo­cal in­volve­ment and lo­cal en­gage­ment was won­der­ful. I knew a lot of these women per­son­ally. And from a young age, they sup­ported my work.

“Peo­ple like Hilda Wool­nough, Jody (Sa­muel­son), Mari (Basiletti) and Max­ine Stan­field were in­spi­ra­tional to me as a kid and so I feel proud to give them the recog­ni­tion they de­serve.”


P.E.I. artist Mari Basiletti stands next to her paint­ing, “The Mo­jave, Nee­dles to Barstow”. Now part of the per­ma­nent col­lec­tion of the Con­fed­er­a­tion Cen­tre Art Gallery, it’s in­cluded in “Who’s Your Mother? Women Artists of P.E.I., 1964 to the present”. The ex­hi­bi­tion con­tin­ues un­til June 2.


This is Pa­tri­cia Bourque’s black and white pho­to­graph, “See’er”.


This is artist Norma Jean Ma­cLean’s paint­ing, “Re­bound Court”. She’s from Bloom­field.


Artist JoDee Sa­muel­son shows her paint­ing “The Guardian, 1980”.


Sandy Kowa­lik’s sculp­ture “Pair of Pears” is one of the pieces in “Who’s Your Mother? Women Artists of P.E.I., 1964 to the present”.


Tex­tile artist Cather­ine Miller stands in the mid­dle of her in­stal­la­tion, “Mak­ing Lists”.

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