Artwork by Joyce Wieland,  Rack

Joyce Wieland

oil and collage on board with towel
signed right; signed and titled on the reverse; dated 1973 on a gallery label on the reverse
8 x 12 ins ( 20.3 x 30.5 cms ) ( overall )

Auction Estimate: $7,000.00$5,000.00 - $7,000.00

Price Realized $5,750.00
Sale date: November 22nd 2016

Isaacs Gallery, Toronto
Private Collection, Calgary
Johanne Sloan, “Joyce Wieland” (online publication), Art Canada Institute, Toronto, 2014, pages 3-10
Throughout the 1970s, Wieland often experimented and produced works of sculptural assemblage marrying her training in painting and personal exploration into contemporary art practices influenced by Pop and Conceptual art. Having lived in New York City throughout the 1960s with then-husband Michael Snow, Wieland became more concerned with the current politics, nationalism and activism with a particular interest in what these themes meant in Canada. Gender politics was a key issue for the artist often exploring the place of a woman both within national political dialogue and art historical canons.

Created in 1973, “Rack” was the predecessor of Wieland’s feature film, “The Far Shore,” produced in 1976. The artist was script writer, director and co-producer for the project. The film presented an alternative history to the myth-like history and persona of Tom Thomson. Wieland’s inclusion of Thomson’s fictional female lover in the film introduced a more contemporary critique of both gender politics within Canadian art history and the relationship between gender and the landscape. As an activist for ecological issues as well, contemporary politics of the landscape and the literal changing of the Canadian landscape and displacement of communities played a large role in the artist’s practice.

Here, the artist quite literally inserts the woman into the landscape of this work. Using traditional symbols of gender, Weiland weaves the tea towel into the landscape; the towel representing traditional femininity as a token of women’s role in the home. The background landscape represents the masculine symbol both in Canada’s history of men conquering the land and the male painters who famously captured the landscape. Moreover, the tea towel is tactile, three dimensional and has been actively inserted into the passive flat landscape - perhaps a visual representation of the artist’s own fierce commitment to her practice and experiences as a political activist, inserting her voice as a woman in a predominantly male-dominated field. Though small in scale, “Rack” is an important work charged with complex socio-political themes and visual dialogues.

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Joyce Wieland
(1930 - 1998)

After graduating from the Central Technical School in Toronto in 1948, having studied design, Joyce Wieland went on to work as a graphic designer in the early 1950s while developing her practice in visual art. Living and working with other artists in Toronto, Wieland met noted Canadian artist Michael Snow and eventually married him in 1956. Shortly thereafter, Wieland's solo career began to develop with her first solo show in 1960 after a number of group shows. She developed a professional relationship with Canadian art dealer Avrom Isaacs and was represented by his gallery.

Moving to New York in the 1960's, Wieland began experimenting with film alongside her visual arts practice—paintings, assemblages, and mixed media works often including themes of eroticism and feminism. Film and the role of the filmmaker/voyeur figured prominently in her self-reflexive pieces where she often depicted herself as the subject of her own gaze. While in New York, Wieland became concerned with both American and Canadian politics. Particularly for Canadian issues, the sweep of Trudeaumania of the 1960's prompted Wieland to explore issues of nationalism, national identity, and political activism.

In 1971, the National Gallery of Canada held a solo exhibition for Wieland entitled “True Patriot Love,” which opened on July 1st. In this seminal exhibition, symbolic artifacts of Canada were at the pinnacle of the pieces, including plays on the newly recognized national anthem (1967), the adoption of the maple leaf flag (which replaced the red ensign), and gendering Canada as female—a comment on how issues of gender and nationality were interchangeable.

Throughout the 1980's, after her and Snow's relationship came to an end, she returned to painting. Themes of hallucinatory eroticism figured prominently in these later works. In 1987, the Art Gallery of Ontario held a retrospective, critically examining her work and offering an environment where her experimental film and visual art pieces could be experienced in tandem.

During the 1990's Wieland's health began to deteriorate, the artist eventually passing in 1998 from the effects of Alzheimer's disease.

“Instead of taking national identity for granted, Wieland called visitors to reimagine and reclaim nationhood.” (Johanne Sloan, “Joyce Weiland: Life and Work,” Art Canada Institute, 2014, page 31)