When I saw an ad for ugly, unloved paintings on Craigslist, I was intrigued. I soon found myself spending a Saturday afternoon cutting up bits of magazines, applying paint and glue to canvas, and giving new life to a discarded piece of art.
Concordia’s 2110 Centre for Gender Advocacy art fundraiser, called Rethink, Rework, Reinvent, invited volunteer artists to transform discarded tableaux into new pieces for an art show and sale that evening.
What a great idea, I thought. It was 2110 Centre intern Jay Bossé’s initiative. Now a fine arts student at Concordia, she had participated in a similar event in her native Ottawa hosted by a visiting artist from Berlin.
The 2110 Centre, named after its Mackay-Street address, promotes gender equality and empowerment, particularly to marginalized communities.
When I arrived, a handful of artists, all women and mostly Concordia students, were already hard at work.
Intimidated by the large canvases that lined the wall waiting to be transformed, I chose a small one. With a few black and red blobs of paint, it was obviously an unfinished work.
I looked around to see what the others were up to and was impressed by what I saw.
The framed classical portrait of a serious young girl holding a rabbit was morphing into a vibrant, modern one. Her dull dress was now Barbie pink, her eyes shadowed in thick pastel paint, her muddy rabbit turned snowy white — even her nails were given an updated look: silver with purple tips. What a transformation!
Returning to my canvas, I stayed with the red and black theme and added paint, marker, a magazine cut-out of artist Frida Kahlo — well ok, it was actress Salma Hayek posing as Kahlo — and sliced up bits of text from what I’d been reading on the metro heading over. Last step was a dusting of gold glitter.
While I can’t say I have any particular talent with a paintbrush, I really enjoyed getting wrapped up in my creation and was happy to know that my piece generated a small donation to help the student group.
Bossé likened the reworking of artworks to rewriting art history, which has traditionally left women out, and the viewing of social constructions through another eye — much the way the 2110 Centre does.
Serving Concordia and the wider community, the centre offers peer support, advocacy and resources for reproductive and trans health. It has also been campaigning for indigenous women’s rights and for the creation of a sexual assault centre at the university.
Fellow participant Sophia Starosta doesn’t consider herself an artist, but she was happy to help the centre. A Brazil native who moved to Montreal a couple of months ago, she compared the centre to her family away from home. She looks to the centre for emotional support and to use its library services.
Members of the Concordia and local communities filled the space for the evening show and sale, where the Reproductive Justice League choir provided live music as art lovers mingled and made their selections.
Louise Morgan, GrDip 99, works in Concordia’s Advancement and Alumni Relations.
• 2110 Centre for Gender Advocacy
• Concordia Faculty of Fine Arts