“That wall,” Shawerim kindly explains, “prevents you from seeing. It prevents me from seeing too, but also from being seen.”
Shawerim Coocoo in the documentary Le mur invisible (2020), by Laurence B. Lemaire
The frame is both a material and conceptual device that is used literally and metaphorically: it directs attention by demarcating the periphery of an image, blocking everything beyond it, or by designating the limits of a subject, power, or identity. In this sense, going beyond the frame is akin to coming out of the closet or breaking the glass ceiling. It means rejecting labels, models, and definitions in order to assert oneself and take one’s rightful place. Through photography, sculpture, performance, textiles, collage, and video, artists Lorna Bauer, Marie-Claire Blais, Nadège Grebmeier Forget, Alicia Henry, Tau Lewis, Michaëlle Sergile, and Eve Tagny each uniquely defy prescribed norms and conventions. Their works shift perspectives to engage with what lies beyond the frame. They resist the constraints that define the mental and physical spaces of those who identify as women. When confronting these works, we are invited to recognize the blind spots that underlie our own judgements—these “walls that prevent us from seeing”—and to rethink how others can be and present themselves as women. The esthetic strategies adopted by these artists go well beyond issues of representation to offer other formal and material explorations that express the pressures exerted on bodies that exist at the crossroads of multiple force fields.
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Images in the banner:
Awakening: seeing beyond the frame, views from the exhibitions at the Musée d’art de Joliette, 2022. Photos : Romain Guilbault
Lorna Bauer, Marie-Claire Blais, Nadège Grebmeier Forget, Alicia Henry, Tau Lewis, Michaëlle Sergile, Eve Tagny
Lorna Bauer lives and works in Montreal and was the Quebec representative for the prestigious Sobey Art Award in 2021. For the past several years, Bauer has used photography and sculpture to explore the relationships of humans and their surroundings.
Montreal-based Marie-Claire Blais has recently begun a series of works that activate, each in their own way, the different ways in which we understand forms and spaces and organize them in our perceptual memory. She studied architecture at the Université de Montréal before devoting herself full-time to her art practice.
Active in the visual and performance art scenes, interdisciplinary artist Nadège Grebmeier Forget is known for her works that involve the autonomous and performative manipulation of her image. She is the first performance artist to have received the Prix Pierre-Ayot (2019) from the Ville de Montréal, awarded in partnership with the Association des galeries d’art contemporain (AGAC).
Alicia Henry lives and works in Nashville, Kentucky, where she teaches at Fisk University. She is interested in issues that address beauty, the body and identity, and the complexities, differences and contradictions that inform and affect both groups and individuals. She has won numerous grants and prizes, and presented a solo exhibition of her work at the Power Plant in Toronto in 2019.
The impulse behind Tau Lewis’s work lies in the desire to heal. Through her laborious and meditative practice, Lewis seeks to heal wounds tied to individual and collective traumas suffered by the African diaspora. Born in Canada, she is currently based in New York.
Michaëlle Sergile’s work is inspired by writings and works from the postcolonial period of the 1950s, which she rewrites by weaving the history of Black communities, especially women’s. She lives and works in Montréal.
Eve Tagny has a background in film and journalism, and is interested in disrupted landscapes and gardens, which she sees as sites of memory. Her work in photography, installation, text, and performance creates dialogue between the cycles of nature and experiences of grief and resilience. In 2020, she received the Plein Sud award. She lives and works in Montreal.