Ottawa ‘s Myka Burke is always getting involved in the arts from music performances to interviews to visual arts shows. An example of the latter is the intriguing show at Studio Sixty Six gallery called ARTiculations featuring the work of 39 Ottawa area artists who identify as women. The show has been extended and Myka explains why in this interview based on emailed questions from ARTSFILE’s Peter Robb.
Q. Myka, you co-curated this show featuring women artists from the area. What was the catalyst?
A. In January 2017, I decided that what I most want to know in 2017 is what it is like to be a female-identifying artist working in Ottawa in 2017. On the one hand, Ottawa was at the centre of the Canada 150 celebrations and, on the other hand, we are still coming to terms with the deplorable treatment endured by Indigenous Peoples in Canada. We also have more awareness around issues affecting gender equality and diversity as well as some ideas about where we need to go, in general, as a country. I wanted to know how these issues were being reflected upon and processed by these artists. I also wanted to find out more about their paths to where they are now, their day-to-day lives, their challenges and triumphs as well as what goals they have for themselves as artists. That said, it was only after my first interview for this project with Studio Sixty Six artist Mique Michelle that I shared with gallery owner Carrie Colton my plan to do a larger project on the subject. She immediately said that she would like her gallery to have a year-end exhibition centre around the idea and ARTiculations was born.
Q. Who are you? Who was the co-curator?
A. My name is Myka Burke. I’m from Ottawa. I’m an academic currently completing my PhD and I also work in the media. I founded Artspace613 in 2016 (inspired by the artists I meet through my research and work) to help them claim more space for art in Ottawa one unusual venue and idea at a time. I had met and worked with Carrie Colton, the owner of Studio Sixty Six, in 2016 when her gallery participated in my organization’s first event, the Self Storage Art Show that saw, among many others, Dominion Sculptor Eleanor Milne’s art and Claire Guillemette Lamirande’s art exhibited posthumously in unused storage units. That show looked at where art fits in our lives, what’s important to us, what we keep, do we have too much stuff, the transitory nature of our lives and it claimed unused space for art.
For ARTiculations, the Studio Sixty Six team and I co-curated. They connected me with the artists for the interviews and handled procuring works of art to display that either spoke to the all-female exhibition or the work they were currently working on. When the works came in, I was given the opportunity to place them in the gallery and decided I would like to add a sound booth to the exhibition so that one could experience snippets from the interviews right there, without distraction. Luckily, Studio Sixty Six thought the idea was great. It was a dream scenario. I was able to work with a gallery and team that I admired while having impactful and significant conversations with artists I am inspired by. This show was particularly meaningful because Studio Sixty Six traditionally supports a good cause as part of their year-end show and in keeping with the theme of this show, a percentage of the proceeds from the sale of art will be donated to the Ottawa Coalition To End Violence Against Women.
Q. The use of audio interviews is interesting. Explain.
A. The idea was to have artists express themselves in several different ways at once and, as such, to amplify their expressive potential while at the same time enabling more familiarity with them and their lives. The marriage of the art, the artist statements and the conversations presents a fuller picture of the art and the artists.
There are two ways to experience the interviews: you can step into the in-gallery hexagon-shaped sound booth that I built for this show. It features a six-minute-long track with snippets from the interviews. I wanted it to be like you are in the artists’ minds, hearing their thoughts but also like a conversation was happening. The other way to experience the interviews is at articulationsottawa.com where a link to each interview is located beside the artist’s work, their photo and artist statement.
Q. Tell me a bit about the show.
A. The show is diverse in medium and direction. The works are often intensely personal and feature vivid colours or expressive imagery and ideas. There is photography and photo-based art, paintings in oil and acrylic, a variety of sculptures, collage, prints, mixed media works, ceramics and porcelain.
For example, Melissa Blackmann’s Arctic Conversation is a woodcut print on paper of narwhals gathering in the Arctic, one of which we know for sure to be half-human and half-narwhal. Charlynne Lafontaine created I See You from three found eye glasses which she flameworked, the works speak to events in the 1980s like the femicide at l’École Polytechnique de Montréal, Judy Rebick and the second wave of feminism as well as what Madonna might say. Hilde Lambrechts Good Riddance is made up of two doilies, one fossilized in porcelain and the other crocheted in black yarn, provoking thoughts around the artistry of crochet while discussing what is often considered to be traditional women’s work.
With Kosisochukwu Nnebe’s The Self, The Other and The Other’s Other viewers look the artist in the eye and see themselves reflected back in the photo-based mixed media sculpture, it is inspired by Hegel’s Master-Slave Dialectic. Susan Roston’s Toxic Finger Emporium is a porcelain sculpture that asks women to consider how they treat other women; and, Anna Griffiths’ Bloom is a digital collage and manipulation of hand-drawn and painted elements printed in HD on aluminum, the image seeks to subvert conventional beauty ideas and celebrate diversity and individuality – to discuss only a few.
Q. Who is in the show?
A. I love that we hear from and see work by diverse artists of all ages and at various stages in their careers. They are all remarkable women and artists with inimitable insights into their own situations and life as an artist in Ottawa in 2017. We need to see their art and hear from them if we are to understand what they are doing.
Participating Artists are: Alexandre Aimee, Gabriela Avila-Yiptong, Amy Barker, Barbara Bolton, Melissa Blackman, Natalie Bruvels, Rebecca Clouatre, Heidi Conrod, Kristina Corre, Joyce Crago, Anne Dahl, Brenda Dunn, Virginia Dupuis, Marisa Gallemit, Abigail Gossage, Anna Griffiths, Lea Hamilton, Petra Halkes, Melle Harris, Leslie Hossack, Sayward Johnson, Sharon Katz, Lilly Koltun, Charlynne Lafontaine, Hilde Lambrechts, Lesia Maruschak, Kelsey McGruer, Mique Michelle, Judy Morris Dupont, Kosisochukwu Nnebe, Susan Roston, Kathryn Shriver, Patrice Stanley, Ruth Steinberg, Joanna Swim, Anne Wanda Tessier, Patricia Wallace, Veronica Waterfall, Yvonne Wiegers.
Q. How has the show been received?
A. There was no room to move on opening night. The responses have been overwhelmingly positive. To have this show coincide with the #MeToo movement has meant the exhibition has also been viewed through the lens of breaking silence in the arts. In that sense, the show could not be more timely. Many people who would not normally head to a local commercial gallery have experienced this show, which is a major reason why the show has been extended. People are genuinely intrigued.
Q. It has been extended until Jan. 20. What’s happening on closing night?
A. We want to party like it’s 2018 which means after we march in the Women’s March Ottawa on Jan. 20, we will join everyone at the Bronson Centre and then head to the gallery to wrap up the show with art, a DJ and drinks from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. We expect many of the artists to be on hand and a lively discussion about the year that was 2017, ARTiculations and how to keep the momentum going in 2018. Everyone is welcome.
Q. Does this show live on somehow?
A. ARTiculations lives on the mini-website featuring the art, artist statements and links to all of the full length interviews. Transcripts from the interviews are slated to become a book.
Studio Sixty Six plans to follow this show up with a group show introducing their 2018 artists who will be featured throughout the year.
Artspace613 always has a few things on the go. A main focus for 2018 will be the Art-o-mat®. Artspace613’s office in allsaints Event Space in Sandy Hill has the only Art-o-mat® in Canada. The 20 year old creation by Clark Whittington is essentially a cigarette vending machine that has been refurbished to dispense small works of art that cost the equivalent of $5 US, a prospect I find pretty exciting. A family of four can come by and they can each buy an original work of art for the equivalent of $20US. It’s a fun and inexpensive way to interact with art and creativity as well as become an art collector. There are more than 100 machines around the world with more than 400 artists contributing. Artspace613 currently stocks two local artists and has also facilitated that Ottawa artists get placed in other machines like the Art-o-mat® in the Smithsonian or Boston Museum of Fine Art. To see it make an appointment with an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to make sure I am in the office.
Studio Sixty Six is located at 66 Muriel Street, Suite 202. For more information studiosixtysix.ca.