BY JOSEF JACOBSON
For Sheila Norgate, a self-portrait is “not just a simple reproduction of a face.”
The Gabriola Island artist says self-portraits are all about self-definition and taking ownership of how one is represented.
Norgate is exploring what that means for women in a new exhibition called She’s Come Undone: Self-portraits by Women. The show features self-portraits by 10 female artists in various media and will be on display at the Gabriola Arts and Heritage Centre starting with a reception on Friday evening (Sept. 15) and will continue on Sept. 16 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Aside from Norgate, the show includes works by Carole Reid and Katherine Surridge from Nanaimo, Gabriola Island’s Antoinette Hérivel, Elsa Bluethner, Carolyn Bell, Mary Sullivan Holdgrafer and Lottie Stone Anderson, and Kim Henigman Bruce and Mary Lou Trinkwon, who hail from the Edmonton area and Vancouver respectively.
“They were excited, a little nervous maybe, but they’ve all said ‘yes’ and they’ve all done something that I don’t think they would have done had they not been invited,” Norgate said.
Norgate said she chose to name the exhibition She’s Come Undone to subversively take ownership of a phrase with negative connotations.
“It’s a pejorative. It’s a little bit like, ‘She’s let herself go,’ but of course I think it’s a good thing,” Norgate explained.
“I’m saying it’s a good thing to come undone. I wish we could become more undone because we’re done up too much in every sense of that word. We’re overly packaged, overly concerned about how we appear [and] what people think of us, so to come undone for me is a good thing.”
Norgate said she was motivated to put the show together as a way to honour and bring visibility to female artists, who she says have historically been underrepresented in the visual arts. She also designed a catalogue for the show which she said serves as a keepsake for those involved.
“I really wanted to honour these women by creating a document that they can have that they are in,” she said.
“Even though they’re all practising artists, mature women, some have had quite big careers but mostly they’re more local and I wanted them to have a taste of what it feels like to be honoured that way.”
Norgate said all the artists are more than 50 years old and that much of the work features commentary on age. She said she hopes the show will promote dialogue about the issue of acceptance of aging for women and “expand our ideas about what it means to represent yourself.”
She’s Come Undone: Self-portraits by Women shows at the Gabriola Arts and Heritage Centre on Friday (Sept. 15) from 7-9 p.m. and Sept. 16 from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission is free.