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Patriot Loves: Visions of Canada in the Feminine

July 23, 2011 - September 4, 2011

AWE Gallery

From its birth as a nation that nests several cultural nations, Canada/Kanata is a native land for some and an adopted home for others. Multiculturalism has become the benchmark of Canada’s national identity and a point of pride for Canadians. Art, in its multiple forms of expression, continues to serve as a powerful means of articulating the nature, legacy and fable of our cultural mosaic.

Canadian women artists have long embraced the challenges of illuminating the complex terrain of our nation — its history and many distinctive cultures. Through imagining and representing their experiences from often personal points of view, these artists assert the importance of women’s roles as nation builders and storytellers.

Few artists have articulated their passion for Canada as powerfully as Joyce Wieland (1930-98). Wieland’s deep love for Canada is reflected in her famous words: “I think of Canada as female. All the art I’ve been doing…is about Canada.” July 1, 2011 marks the 40th anniversary of the opening of True Patriot Love, Wieland’s landmark solo exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada. Taking Wieland’s woman-centered expression of Canadian nationalism as its starting point, Patriot Loves presents several of her key works with those of Nadia Myre and Cynthia Girard, contemporary artists exploring related issues.

Whether they are First Nations (Myre), Francophone (Girard) or Anglophone (Wieland), these artists are visual activists. They share a deep love and respect for the land and for their cultures. Through the metaphorical and material languages of art, they present us with alternative ways of seeing and understanding the fragments of history, and the present that we share. In so doing, we may, perhaps, change our preconceived notions about Canada’s “official” history in relation to our multicultural present.

The works of Nadia Myre and Cynthia Girard emerge from the unofficial spaces of our national history. As contemporaries, both artists share a deep-rooted desire to re-inscribe the narrative fragments of their cultures into the collective history of Canada. Their endeavours are particularly challenging ones, for their cultures are located in places that represent dark and shameful periods in Canadian collective memory.

2011 also marks the 40th anniversary of the implementation of the Multiculturalism Act in Canada, which officially recognized multiculturalism as a fundamental policy shaping Canadian identity, and its future. By looking back at some of the key events that have shaped Canada through the eyes of these artists, Patriot Loves invites questions about the present and future relations among the cultural nations that make up our country.

The metaphorical and material narratives of Nadia Myre, Cynthia Girard and Joyce Wieland speak to the histories of Canada’s three founding nations, which have provided the grounding for our multicultural society. This trilogy will continue to influence Canada’s identity, even as immigration changes the face of our nation.

Minh Nguyen, Curator

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