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Le générique du Bulletin
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January/February 2003
Vol. 35, no. 1
ISSN 1492-4676

Contents Next Article

Celebrating Women’s Achievements: Women Artists in Canada

Maria Belanger, Research and Information Services

In honour of Women’s History Month, the topic of the October 2002 SAVOIR FAIRE was the Library and Archives of Canada’s Web site Celebrating Women’s Achievements: Women Artists in Canada. Presented by three eloquent members of the Reference and Information Services Division, Mary Bond, Andrée Côté Moxon and Nina Milner, this bilingual presentation focussed on the Web site and on a selection of the 24 exceptional women artists that were chosen as subjects for the biographies included on the site. The featured artists represent a wide variety of artistic styles and media and include painters, sculptors, photographers, a painter-weaver, an audio installation artist, a printmaker, a Fraktur artist and a mixed-media artist.

Mary Bond introduced the session by giving the audience a brief historical overview of how Celebrating Women’s Achievements (www.collectionscanada.ca/women/index-e.html) came into being.

In October 1995, as the National Library’s contribution to Women’s History Month, 21 biographies about women in the fields of society, music and literature were researched and written. There was such positive feedback from the public that a decision was made to add a new theme each year. To date, staff of the Reference and Information Services Division at the Library and Archives of Canada have developed biographies of women from the fields of librarianship and bibliography, politics, the book trade, activism, sport, science and the arts.

There are many criteria considered when choosing the women for each theme. As Mary Bond pointed out, "The selection of the women who are the subjects of biographies for each theme is a fascinating and challenging process. Of course, there are always many women we would like to research. … We look at factors such as area of endeavour; for example, with the artists we wanted to include women working in a range of styles and media. Ethnicity, cultural and regional representation are considered, and we strive to find a balance between historical and contemporary women and between those who are well-known and those who are less recognized. Women are selected because of their accomplishments in a given field, because of the challenges they faced, or the contribution they made in improving the lives of other women."

The biographies range from 500 to 2000 words in length and include details of the artists’ lives and well as their contributions to their given fields. Photos are included, as well as a suggested reading list which offers the public an opportunity to learn more about each woman. This year, an image of an artistic work by each woman has also been included.

Once the biographies are written, the National Library’s Digital Library of Canada Task Force is responsible for the editing and the translation of the biographies. Copyright permission has to be obtained to reproduce the images that appear on the Web site. The Web site also has to be designed and coded, another Task Force responsibility.

Mary Bond gave a brief tour of the main site and pointed out educational resources that are available to parents and educators based on the women profiled in the "Science" section. She highlighted some of the women who have been researched in previous years: Elizabeth Bushell and Sister Vision Press in the "Book Trade" section, Elizabeth Bagshaw and Madeleine Parent in the "Activism" section, Chantal Petitclerc and Silken Laumann in the "Sport" section and Jean Goodwill and Alice Wilson in the "Science" section.

Andrée Côté Moxon and Nina Milner each selected six women artists and gave the audience some brief biographical details about each of them, as well as information on their artistic styles and motivations. The quotes cited are from the biographies featured on the Celebrating Women’s Achievements: Women Artists in Canada Web site.

Some Artists profiled by Andrée Côté Moxon

Anna Weber, Fraktur Artist

"Fraktur, a Pennsylvania German decorative tradition, combines calligraphic and pictorial elements in the embellishment of religious texts and family documents. The largest output of Ontario fraktur art occurred in Waterloo County, from the early 1820s to almost 1890. Anna Weber, one of the best known and most prolific of the Waterloo County artists, was unusual in a number of ways. Foremost, female fraktur artists were rare. In addition, Anna's art departed from traditional fraktur work in that her art was primarily pictorial."

Her drawing entitled Two Birds in Flowered Tree is featured with the biography.

Kenojuak Ashevak, Sculptor, Draughtswoman

"Kenojuak Ashevak is probably contemporary Inuit art's most famous personality. Born in an igloo in 1927, she is an artist who has lived in two very different worlds  --  the traditional Inuit culture, and, increasingly, the twentieth-century western culture."

Her lithograph entitled The World Around Me is featured with the biography.

Micheline Beauchemin, Painter-Weaver

Born in Longueuil, Quebec

"Beauchemin has created a repertory of various works which includes theatre curtains, tapestries, wall hangings, embroidery murals, flexible walls, stained glass works, scale models, collages, toys, costumes and illustrations."

A 1956 embroidery entitled Les Ailes is featured with the biography.

Some Artists profiled by Nina Milner

Paraskeva Clark, Painter

Born in St. Petersburg, Russia. Settled in Toronto after marrying Canadian Philip Clark.

"Considered one of the most accomplished Canadian painters of the 1930s and 1940s, she was one of few Canadian artists of the time who used her art to convey her passionate political convictions."

Her paintings Myself and the 1937 Petroushka are featured with the biography.

Joyce Wieland, Filmmaker, Mixed Media Artist

Born in Toronto, Ontario

"It is difficult to compartmentalize Wieland's oeuvre because she explored and pushed the limits of many artistic concepts throughout her career."

"During a rare interview, Wieland remarked that all of her art is autobiographical and that it emphasizes the importance of human interaction for society's well being."

Her 1972 mixed media artistic work entitled The Maple Leaf Forever is featured with the biography.

Mary Pratt, Painter, Printmaker

Born in Fredericton, New Brunswick

"Pratt has, at times, been unjustly called a painter of food, of the kitchen. Art historian Gerta Moray has stressed that it is visual contemplation, rather than the active processes of food preparation, that Mary's creations emphasize. There are many different layers of meaning in her works, through their relationship to photography, to Northern European painting, to religious imagery, to advertising, and to femininity as it is constructed in our society."

Her 2002 painting entitled Poppyseed Cake: Glazed for Calypso is featured with the biography.

A total of 144 biographies are now featured in Celebrating Women’s Achievements. We invite you to visit the Web site to learn more about these fascinating Canadian women.