The Artist Herself: Self-Portraits by Canadian Historical Women Artists
Samuel J. Zacks, Historical Feature and R. Fraser Elliott Galleries

Season Launch: Friday 8 May, 5:30–7:30 pm

Alicia Boutilier, Tobi Bruce

Spanning pre-Confederation colonialism to the cusp of second-wave feminism, The Artist Herself brings to light a rich but underexplored aspect of Canadian culture.

Drawing upon our fascination with self-portraits, The Artist Herself expands the genre’s definition by moving beyond the human face to propose other forms of self-representation, from both settler and Indigenous perspectives. The result is a thought-provoking selection of 55 works by 42 women artists in a range of media, including paintings, textiles, photographs and film. Both renowned and lesser-known artists are featured: Pitseolak Ashoona, Simone Mary Bouchard, Emily Carr, Paraskeva Clark, Martha Eetak, Artis Lane, Caroline Gros Louis, Alice Egan Hagen, Frances Anne Hopkins, E. Pauline Johnson, Maud Lewis, Pegi Nicol MacLeod, Hannah Maynard, Daphne Odjig, Princess Louise, Mary Hiester Reid and Marian Dale Scott. From Johnson’s performance costumes representing her dual Mohawk and Euro-Canadian identity to Carr’s painting of herself from the back at her easel, from Maynard’s playful photographs of her multiple selves to Ashoona’s sly comment on her participation in the Inuit art market, these works open up new avenues of inquiry and new understandings of the realities and perspectives of women in Canadian society before 1970. Most important, the exhibition reveals the ways in which women artists have given profound expression to their identities.

Co-curated by Alicia Boutilier at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre and Tobi Bruce at the Art Gallery of Hamilton, this exhibition is developed in partnership by the two institutions. The project includes a fully illustrated bilingual catalogue, with an introductory essay by Boutilier and Bruce, as well as in-depth entries on individual works and themes by 35 invited specialists. The Artist Herself will open at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre in May 2015 in conjunction with the third Canadian Women Artists History Initiative (CWAHI) conference. The event marks the 40th anniversary of From Women’s Eyes: Women Painters in Canada, a landmark exhibition in the history of Canadian art organized by the Agnes in 1975, International Women’s Year.

The Artist Herself will tour nationally before closing at the Art Gallery of Hamilton in the summer of 2016.

The exhibition launches on Friday 8 May, 5:30 to 7:30 pm, in conjunction with the Canadian Women Artists History Initiative (CWAHI) conference to mark the fortieth anniversary of From Women’s Eyes: Women Painters in Canada, a landmark exhibition organized by the Agnes in 1975. Full program details for this conference are available here. To view the video from the conference panel “From Curatorial Eyes: Exhibiting and Collecting Canadian Women Artists, Then and Now,” go to our video collection.

Find out more about these works in the exhibition:

With your mobile device, share your response to this groundbreaking exhibition through Twitter: follow the Agnes at @aeartcentre #ArtistHerself.

Touring Exhibition Locations:

Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, BC (2 October 2015–3 January 2016)

Kelowna Art Gallery, BC (23 January–3 April 2016)

Art Gallery of Hamilton, ON (28 May–11 September 2016)


Micro-sites designed by Studio:Blackwell.

This project is funded in part by the Government of Canada.      wordmark-bw

Image Credits

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