New Year, New Plans

I’ve had a few shows now, all  related to researching and painting portraits of various “Great Women”. The shows have been popular. The research eye-opening. This year, in 2019 I’m expanding my artistic reach: focusing on Great Women of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) – and mixing art and journalism, to deepen the experience, for the viewer, of getting to know these amazing women of history.

I just wanted to add one note, for now:

because, at my last show, something amazing happened….

The show was called “Great Women of the Ocean, Earth and Sky” and a few days after the opening (which was really fun) I went back, mid-day, to the Chase Gallery at the Nova Scotia Archives, to check on the portrait paintings.

In the near-empty gallery I saw 3 women. All three looked to be, I don’t know, perhaps in their 40s or maybe 50s? Their backs were to me. Two were quietly studying one of the large-scale portraits (all the portraits in this series were 3×4 feet… so quite large and all were close-cropped images of each female pioneer’s face. So the viewer could get the feel of , almost, looking each woman in the eye – peering into her soul or spirit a bit…at least that’s what I was going for…). I was double parked, and just peeking in – but I thought I’d take the moment to do a quick “focus group” – to check-in with these three anonymous ladies, to get their reaction to the paintings.

“What do you think?” I asked – standing a few feet behind them, still near the door – the better to avoid getting a parking ticket.

The two women who’d been discussing the portrait of Elizabeth Mann-Borgese turned and said something indicating they liked the show. But the third woman hesitated to turn. She was standing on her own, looking at my portrait of Elsie McGill .

I asked her directly, what she thought. She turned to me and I saw she was crying.

I walked over immediately and stood by her closely, wanting her to feel my support.

“Why are you crying?” I asked her, in a quiet voice.

“I never knew any of this,” she responded.

I gave her a hug. We gave each other a hug, sort of smile uncomfortably, and then I left. I told her “thank you” before I exited. Creating a portrait collection takes an enormous amount of effort. I felt like – wow – it was worth it. Because that’s who I feel about these women. I can’t believe I never knew what they did.

Later, when I collected the comment book I’d left in the gallery, I noticed this woman had signed the book – identifying herself and recalling her emotional moment, in front of Elsie McGill.

I’ve forgotten this woman’s name. but I’ll find that log book and look it up – to know it, remember it. She’s one of the people for whom I’m dedicating my next show. She’s inspired me. Because, yes, she is so right: we don’t know these Great Women of STEM. Yet: They paved a path. And it’s our female path. We need to know it. We need to show what they did to our daughters, and nieces and friend’s kids so they’ll know what women have already accomplished, understand that it’s female ground too – in my books, it’s the best way to ensure the next generation of girls and young women can better carve their own fresh paths.



One Response

  1. Please keep us posted, Jo. We’re looking forward to the next one.

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