Front & Centre, September 2003
Sisterhood: The Women’s Art Festival
As visited by the Jaywalker Gadabout.
We are diverse, but are often segregated by purpose, wealth, age or religion. We are one people. And we are every bit the mosaic that
mosaic is a work of art. This collection of varied pieces forming a greater
image reminds us as much of our heritage as it does our aspirations. But as much
as colourful clothes may eventually wash into a grey homogeny, we may feel that
we risk a similar fate as technology promises to make spiritual bunkmates of us
all, affinity and harmony have such homogeny to look forward to; no less than
anarchy and individuality have cacophony in their cards. Thus, one may expect
that at an event with unique individuals expressing themselves at full voice,
each to their own tune, one would arrive at such a cacophony. But on the 17th
of August, these individuals instead formed a symphony, and called it the 22nd
Women’s Art Festival.
songs of protest stood in contrast to the songs of peace- forming a backdrop to
the day itself. The canvas was textured with variety: the booth of bold acrylic
colour beside that of calming pastels; the booth of youthful experimentation
beside the tried-and-true; the sober beside the frivolous. And the artists –
well, they took on every form and colour in the palette.
as I wandered around the booths I could not focus on “covering” the festival
at all. It was not the colours, the forms or the subjects. And the artists and
music would fade in and out. I was overwhelmed, but by the deep sense of talent
surrounding me. It reminded me of the Royal Ontario Museum. Like a kid in a
candy shop, my artistic sweet tooth rang with delight. And why not?
nearly a kazillion years, the Women’s Art Festival has been midwife to local
talent, delivering and even raising many of Kingston’s finest female artists.
The popularity rose from its early years, when, as my not-always-perfect memory
recalls, there was a certain sense of tribalism reminiscent of the guilds. But
as it grew deeper into fruition, this sense was not lost, but rather
was at the festival to find some material to showcase in this issue. I left the
house thinking that my day could be easily split between covering the artwork at
the Women’s Art Festival, and heading over to the Kingston Jaycees “Over the
Hill” Soapbox Derby to get a few shots of the homemade artwork on the
racecars. It seemed so easy.
think I knew I was done for when the first hour blew by me like a subway train.
I just kept seeing talent…talent…talent…
Magazine is not a talent contest. It is a magazine of the arts, showcasing local
talent, but it does not “judge” the submissions on the basis of what is
comparably best. This altruistic policy was in for a real showdown that Sunday,
when I was given the task of choosing among thousands of great pieces – all of
them equal in their fitting nature.
bumped into Lawrence, who was anticipating his hand-knit wool socks, then Karen,
who was sighing with her love of a sculpture with the hare (of fable) riding
atop the tortoise, (also of fable). A group of teddy-bear bearing cards went
home with me, en route to Linda. If variety is the spice of life, we’re
talking curry here.
having to choose only a few among thousands of beautiful and varied mosaic tiles
to include in your representation of a greater mosaic. Not easy. In fact it was
a fool’s fancy if ever there was one.
I refined the terms a bit, and asked myself instead: Why am I here?
aside from the philosophical stuff, the reason I was at that location at that
exact time was because so many years before, a group of women had a dream of
“promoting the work of women artists”. This helped me refine my terms quite
well: I was searching for something that embodied the spirit of the
Women’s Art Festival.
I came to see their work, first one, followed by the other several minutes
later, I saw the same talent level seen throughout the festival. I saw the
colours, the lines, the subjects…you get the picture. But it was the
realization that there was more to their conspicuously adjoining booths than
just comfort with each other.
Smith sisters had clearly arrived together, unpacked together and were obviously
comfortable and supportive in each other’s presence. They had differences in
style and form, in materials, and in character. However, no difference could
hide their shared focus: the arts. Sisters in the arts: is that not the very
essence of the Women’s Art Festival?
so we, as a group, confirmed that this micro-mosaic of two tiles could speak of
the arts, of women, of flowing colour, of dark lines, of aspiration, and of
flirtation; but most of all, they could speak of the unifying force behind the
Women’s Art Festival – the sisterhood – that has helped improve the entire
face of Kingston in this great mosaic of Canada.
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