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Full picture: Edmonton artists work to bring diversity to galleries

Edmonton creator on a mission to diversity art scene
WATCH: An Edmonton artist says you don't always get the full picture at your local art gallery. Morgan Black explains some local efforts to make the art scene more inclusive.

An Edmonton artist’s exhibit is focused on empowering women through canvas.

Fifteen women are depicted in Shana Wilson‘s For Women Who Roar exhibit, which has toured with Canadian musician Serena Ryder and was featured in the 2019 Vignettes Design Series in Edmonton.

“When I go to major museums or galleries around the world, I see women depicted on canvas as generally nude, erotica, subservient,” Wilson said. “I wanted to give power to women on canvas.”

For Women Who Roar exhibit
For Women Who Roar exhibit. Morgan Black/Global News

Wilson spent a year-and-a-half creating the portraits, which include Christine Blasey Ford, Anita Hill and Buffy Sainte-Marie

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“Some are women will be on your radar already, like Gloria Steinem. Some are not on the radar, like Golden Drake,” Wilson said.

It was also important to Wilson to portray women of colour on canvas.

“If you walk through our major museums and galleries, it’s nothing but white people on the walls. The whitewashing is offensive,” Wilson said. “Artists and the art community needs to work to change that. You need to paint people other than white people.”

Robert Tyndale has spoken to black artists express feeling that there isn’t a place for them in a traditional art setting.

“Most black artists would never really articulate their work as being fine art and the question becomes” ‘Why?’ Why can’t your work that you have spent years developing be considered?”

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For artist Keon Courtney, who was also featured in the 2019 Vignettes Design Series, representation is essential.

“I paint things that inspire me or inspired me as a child,” Courtney said. “If you’re able to take your children to an art gallery and they see people on canvas that look like them… that’s important.”

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Tyndale is using a different art form to tell stories — a recently launched Melanistic magazine.

“We’re trying to showcase and highlight the black community in respect to artists, businesses, entrepreneurs,” Tyndale said. “We just wanted to tell our own story.”

The magazine launched During Black History Month, but Tyndale hopes the momentum doesn’t end there.

“There are always a lot of events and activities that happen in February and then it’s a fizzle. We’re hoping by engaging a lot of people in the community, we can [keep that momentum].

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For Tyndale, the more doors that are open, the more people can get through.

“Yes, we live in a multicultural country. That’s phenomenal. But, in certain areas and spaces, you don’t see the same diversity, the same opportunity. There are challenges. It’s great when there are different platforms to allow people [to express their art].”
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