Ilene Sova – Artist Statement
14 Drawings of Artists in Collaboration with the Artists
Margreta Stolen, Nigit’stil Norbert, Caroline Phillips, Valerie Carew, Shelby Lisk
Kelly McInnes, Max Chadburn, Tracey-Mae Chambers, Maria Richardson, kiyl keys, Fannie Gadouas, and Jenna Reid
This series is a collaboration between the artists in the residency and myself. I completed the portraits the first week of the residency and then I gave the artists the drawings to intervene in some way. I did not give any specific instruction. This finished installation is the result of that collaboration between the artists and myself.
In 1999, while defending my Master’s thesis I did a series entitled 10 Drawings of Women Artists. This series consisted of ten larger than life drawings of young women artists from the University of Windsor. At the time, I was thinking about the fact that I would finally be leaving academia and embarking on a quest to become a professional artist.
However, having done research and been to many galleries, I knew that women were still at a high disadvantage in the art world. Statically speaking, only 1 in 10 female artists will actually become a professional artist. Another starling fact, is that only 10% of the art in the modern sections of museums is done by woman. This is contrary to the enrollment in art schools, where women out number men by 10 to 1.
This series was to speak about these negative statistics for women artists. The drawings were an attempt to make heroes out of these young women; to show their strength; their presence and just their sheer numbers.
Now, it is 15 years later and a few weeks ago Canadian Art released a research project which stated that ‘of solo exhibitions by living artists held at major public art galleries across the country since the beginning of 2013, and found that 64 per cent of them featured men.” What barriers, what walls, what institutional change needs to occur for women’s art to become legitimized?
The Globe and Mail released another article about the same issues by Kate Taylor stating
“Despite all the liberalism of the practitioners, the arts are a really sexist place. Women tend to be equally or overrepresented in theatre schools, film programs and art colleges, but once they graduate they find their male colleagues have more luck launching successful creative careers and are more likely to be offered leadership roles in arts organizations, while the women may find themselves ghettoized in supporting roles such as stage management, marketing and communications.”
When I started the residency I came with another idea entirely, after drawing for two days and becoming frustrated with my original project I decided that I needed a new idea. This concept for this came after hearing our speaker Andrea Thompson speak about the fact that as professional artists we have made a commitment – to possibly be poor, to possibly struggle to possibly not get the recognition but we do it anyway – because we have to. I found this to be an inspiring outlook. Situating ourselves as makers who must make because we are so passionate about the issues.
After this I decided that I must draw the portraits of the women here in the residency who have committed to doing just that, being artists.
The collaborative element made sense as we are in this community together for two weeks and we are constantly working together, advising each-other, influencing one another and assisting on our projects. This installation is a reflection of that microcosm of community, collaboration and consensus that happened over the two weeks of the residency.