Friday, May 29, 2009

More on my reading of Women Between by Verna Reid.

In Verna Reid's exploration, she discovered four themes common to the work of these four artists: home and mother; body; nature; spirituality and aging. Reid uses these four aspects of artistic practice as the structure for her book.

Within this framework the author shows how the four women weave together the separate parts of their lives. The ordinary routines of daily life, and relationships with the people close to them, form a large place in each of their lives, alongside their painting and/or writing. Three of the women - Mary Pratt, Aganetha Dyck, Sharon Butala - are still working today and each one maintains a strong passion for her art as she ages. Sadly, Mary Meigs died in 2002.

At the end of each chapter, Reid writes of her own experience of the same issues the artists face, what she calls "Reading as Daughter, Sister and [in some chapters] Mother to the Text." I like this personal aspect of the book. I feel myself responding not only to the artists, but also to the author. I admire her careful research, her intelligence and her openness in sharing how she entered into the stories of these artists' lives.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

17 May, 2009

My current reading is the book, WOMEN BETWEEN: CONSTRUCTION OF SELF IN THE WORK OF SAHRON BUTALA, AGANETHA DYCK, MARY MEIGS AND MARY PRATT by Verna Reid. The author chose this title because these four artists are in the transitional generation "occupying the space between the traditional world of their mothers and the postmodern world of their daughters." Reid is also of that generation.

Societal expectations figure large in the lives of these four Canadian women. They all four experienced ambivalence about modelling their lives on their mothers' lives because of the narrow parameters the previous generation set for women. One of the aspects of this book that fascinates me is that, in fact, it is about five women, the fifth being Verna Reid herself. She acknowledges this, and it is her own experience that gives an immediacy to her writing.

More on this book another day.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

14 May, 2009
My biography of Russian-born Toronto artist Paraskeva Clark (1898-1986) will be published in November by Cormorant Books of Toronto.

One of the many things I enjoyed about writing this book was learning about her native land and her city, St. Petersburg. This is a society that from its beginning was saturated with tyranny and subservience. The city was built by peasants. Peter the Great combed the countryside and forced inhabitants to dig out the city he dreamed. Many of these poor workers dug up the soil with their bare hands and carried it in their aprons.

A city with a history like that cannot easily give up the tyranny of the tsars, which had continued on and on over centuries, finally shattered by the 1917 Revolution, and then, wouldn't you know it, the tyranny continued under a different name. How strange are we humans, who think we improve our situation only to continue the nastiness that was in our history. It's not only the Russians who have done this!