The word that launched a thousand works

With eyes downcast, the woman’s face is lined with grief.  The colours draping her body, bright purples and rich yellows, seem to suggest…

With eyes downcast, the woman’s face is lined with grief.

 The colours draping her body, bright purples and rich yellows, seem to suggest celebration, though.

The disconnection between the woman’s sadness and the wash of spring colours is jarring.

A small white label, hanging below the painting, reads, Tsunami.

Using her palette to convert action to oil, local painter Guadalupe Garcia draws on ideas from across the globe.

While she has never travelled to the shredded shores of countries struck by the December 2004 tsunami, news images of women in the region inspired her to take brush to canvas.

 “I like painting women; the majority of my canvases are of women,” she said.

“I try to show the suffering and abandonment of women.”

Born in Central Mexico, Garcia and her family moved to the Yukon more than a year ago.

Garcia began painting in Mexico.

“In my country it’s very difficult for women, as it is in many countries,” she said from the gallery at the Centre de la francophonie.

“So, there’s lots of material.”

Suffering is not as obvious here, she added. The burdens Canadian women shoulder are not as public as those women in Mexico carry.

“Here, it’s harder to distinguish suffering in women,” she said.

“Everyone has their own sufferings, but people don’t express it as openly here.”

Garcia reaches beyond the borders of Canada and Mexico to find subjects for her paintings.

Her two pieces, which currently hang on the walls of the Centre de la francophonie, show women living in South Asia after the tsunami destroyed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in the region.

The connection may seem tenuous — what is the link between a Mexican painter, women in South Asia and a francophone gallery in the Yukon?

The word femininity.

The current exhibit donning the walls of the Centre de la francophonie, explores the theme of femininity through the works of 15 local artists from the territory’s French and Latino communities.

Garcia’s paintings fit the bill, according to organizers from L’Association franco-yukonnaise and Les EssentiElles, a non-profit francophone women’s rights group.

Femininity is an open theme, according to Maryne Dumaine organizer at the Centre de la francophonie.

The variety of work in the exhibit reflects how each woman views the word through different eyes.

“Femininity is such a large theme,” said Dumaine.

“People think of it in different ways. I like this diversity. It makes (the exhibition) very rich.”

With paintings, photographs and mixed-media pieces hanging on the gallery’s walls, there is also sculpture and jewelry on display.

Strung alone on a small slice of wall is a mixed-media piece, 3M, created by Julie Menard, the exhibit co-organizer from Les EssentiElles.

She created 3M specifically for the show.

“I thought about what it was for me to be a woman,” said Menard about her piece.

A combination of bright purple and stark white paint, 3M is stuck with maxi pads.

Femininity is a universal term, said Menard.

“I decided I wanted something that would represent all women in the world,” she added.

This crossed out the idea of painting a ballet dancer or depicting pregnancy, she said.

“Then, I thought, they all have their menstruations.”

The title, which stands for Moi, Mois et Menstruations, translates to English without losing its punch — Me, Month and Menstruation.

The larger purpose of the show is to mark International Women’s Day on March 8.

The exhibition will coincidence with events across the globe, she said.

Organizers didn’t want to confine the show to a single woman artist, because they have an opportunity to run one-person shows each month, said Menard.

The theme was chosen because it is vague, leaving women artists with space for interpretation and experimentation.

“We said they can submit anything but they have to express femininity,” said Menard. “So, it could be in any way.”

Viewers are encouraged to let their feminine sides rule as they peruse the gallery’s collection.

“Women are seen from different eyes and reflected in different ways,” said Menard about the exhibit.

“People always have the idea of the typical sexual woman. And it’s not only that.”

 For Marie-Helene Comeaux, “femininity” calls for celebration.

With a splash of primary colours — reds, yellows and blues — her painting shows a woman playing the flute, with a group of silhouettes dancing in the lower corner.

Ode a la Feminite, or Ode to Femininity, is a happy painting, said Comeaux.

It exudes a feeling of spring and the return of daylight, which is why she chose to submit it to the show.

“I’m affected by the light and I just wanted something happy,” she said.

“I felt like celebrating.”

The range of artwork speaks to diversity of women’s lives in the territory, she said.

There are underlying commonalities, however.

“That’s what the exhibition is all about too,” said Comeaux.

“Somehow the paintings are talking to each other.”

Like the works displayed in the downtown gallery, each woman had her own definition of femininity.

For some it is best explained through symbol.

“For me, femininity is a colour,” said Dumaine.

“It’s red,” she added, signaling to glasses of red wine, fresh stems of red flowers and red programs for the opening.

For others, femininity is a concept.

“It’s artistic for me,” said Menard.

“Femininity is something out of the body.”

The word was also described as an action.

“(Femininity is) solidarity, women helping each other,” said Comeaux.

“I’m not a man, so it’s hard for me to compare. I’m not objective,” she added with a laugh.

Femininity is a whole collection of characteristics.

“I think of struggle, of love, of understanding,” said Garcia.

“It’s an accumulation of things.”

Femininity/La Feminite will run through the month of March.

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