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 works by 41 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, 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 costume 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 was 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 opened at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre in May 2015. The presentation at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria is the first opportunity to see this ground-breaking exhibition in western Canada.