New city gallery showcases feminism and law

By Stacey Barron

Tucked away inside the concourse in Ottawa’s city hall sits a brand new art gallery, largely hidden but for two large glass doors beckoning passersby inside. The gallery’s christening last month was an exhibition of the City’s recently acquired works by regional artists.

From March 7 to April 26, a new exhibit is being displayed, entitled, “Template #2: Bridging Visions”, focusing on the relationship between feminism and law.

Composed entirely of work from local artists, the gallery’s second exhibit is a fresh and interactive audiovisual experience. Pink telephones, paper ears and an undergarment made from pins provide for an unorthodox interpretation of various women’s experiences and how law has touched their lives.

“[The show] aims to marry the skills, tools and activisms of two visionary sets of workers: one is based in text, one based in visuals and symbolism,” says c.j. fleury, who is the project director, artist and co-creator of Bridging Visions. “Yet, both are informed by women’s real, lived experience.”

The project is the collaborative effort of eight artists, and has been in the planning stages for three years. It is part of a larger project in conjunction with the Biennial Conference of the National Association of Women and Law, which was held in Ottawa at the beginning of the month.

Artists such as Dawn Dale, Kathy Gillis and Gayle Kells approached fleury and submitted proposal ideas. They were chosen based on how their specific ideas could fit into the theme of the conference. They then developed projects on their own and worked with fleury to put the show together.

“It’s a collaborative and interdisciplinary effort,” she says, adding that each artist has a different disciplinary background and has something entirely different to say with their work. “Artists have created their work from the basis of their own communities…in this case, they’re showing how law affects women.”

Included in the display are two sound-based pieces. One of them, an inquisitive and chaotic piece called, “The Sonic Mirror: Facets of Feminism” was completed by Douglas Samuel, an audio artist and the only male featured in the exhibit. His creation appears unassuming, composed only of a leather chair that visitors sit in while listening to his work on a set of headphones.

“My piece features the voices of all the other artists in the show, so it’s really their reflections of feminism with me as a filter,” he says about his idea. “They all have their own ideas on what feminism means, so it’s a pretty confusing piece.”

Samuel is grateful for the opportunity to showcase his work locally in a venue like this one, a completely foreign experience for him coming from a background in radio.

“This gallery is more accessible to artists and to people,” he says. “It’s in a space that gets traffic not normally connected to art. It lowers the barrier put up by larger galleries and has a focus on local artists, which is great.”