There are artists who don’t shy away from putting their lives and/or experiences out there for the public to see. I think it takes a certain personal courage to produce such art – to know that people will judge them – for better or for worst, and yet, to do it. I have the pleasure of knowing and having taught such an artist – Edmontonian Joanne Barwise. Her show at the U of A’s Enterprise Square in August is one that I found poignant, liberating, sad and even uncomfortable at times.
To say that this show had a feminist undercurrent would be spot on, but instead of focusing on themes of victimization or hatred of men, this show was surprisingly free of such things. Instead, Joanne’s art reflects who she is, what experiences she has had, and how they moulded her into the adult she is today.
Here are some of my favorite pieces from her show. The artist’s own words are in the space below the image:
It’s interesting how one perceives another. Perhaps because of my own background in textile arts, I saw a textile show, but Joanne told me she has never seen herself as a textile artist. The dresses were simply a means to an end. Here’s what she had to say:
“Women wear dresses to celebrate, to wed, to work, and to mourn. A dress is like a second skin. These empty dresses hang like skeletons bound with memories the absent body holds–my body, my memories. The dresses in this exhibition represented aspects of my life growing up from a girl to womanhood. It was a challenge for me to express some of the social pressures I felt as a girl, the relationship with my parents and the connections with my two sisters and brother. Through the Zen of making and contemplation, the metaphors appeared and my growing up years became clearer to me. I hope the viewer is able to connect to my stories.”
In every show and artist is expected to provide the viewer with a general introduction to their body of work, or project. This is what Joanne had to say about her work:
“When I make, I create something and also participate in the historical traditions that are tens of thousands of years old. I feel connected to something greater than myself that manifests itself through a finished product. Making has been my lifelong constant. It is my practice, my outlet for creativity, a place to search for meaning, and a teacher of focus and patience.
Materials stir my curiosity and inspire my creativity. I like the process of looking at things differently, using metaphors and making something that connects form, material and idea together. Some of the materials I like to use in making with are rust, metal, wax, hog gut, textiles, and growing crystals.”
Good art makes you pause, to look, and to think about the work in front of you. The show was very successful and I look forward to seeing and hearing more about Joanne Barwise.