Women have claimed the spotlight at Rodman Hall this fall with a new large-scale exhibition.
Material Girls — all about women taking up space — brings together work by 25 Canadian and international artists from across all artistic disciplines and cultural backgrounds. The exhibition, which opened Sept. 14, explores how material processes and ideas of excess relate to the feminized body and gendered space.
“At Rodman Hall, we strive to be an agent of social change, presenting exhibitions that have resonance within our community, while engaging with dialogues beyond it,” says Rodman Hall Curator Marcie Bronson. “Among the issues our curatorial team took into consideration when planning to present Material Girls is the reality that our community is ranked one of the worst places in Canada to be a woman.”
Niagara is considered one of the worst places in the country for women to live. A 2016 review by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives ranked St. Catharines 19 out of Canada’s largest 25 metropolitan areas in terms of women’s education, health, personal security, economic security and positions of leadership.
Women who are working in Niagara are earning 75 per cent of what men make for the same work. Out of all the communities surveyed, Niagara has the lowest level of full-time female employment, despite women being more likely than men to have completed higher education. Women are also underrepresented in leadership roles in government and business.
“It is our hope that this exhibition and related programming will spark not only dialogue, but more importantly, action to affect the positive and lasting change that is necessary to close the gender gap and reach our city’s vision of being dynamic, innovative, sustainable and livable,” Bronson explains.
Hosting the exhibition in Rodman’s historic domestic space is particularly meaningful.
“The show Material Girls has inserted itself into the house, and has re-imagined this domestic space in a way that pulls the focus towards women,” explains Gallery Assistant Lauren Regier. “This is especially significant as there is little known about the Merritt women — Mary Benson Merritt and Maud Hudson Merritt — both of whom seem to have resided in the house longer than their respective husbands.”
Rodman Hall has partnered with YWCA Niagara to present an outreach program that invites girls in Grades 10 to 12 to explore visual arts materials within the themes of taking up space and the feminized body. Participants in Power Girl Material Girl will create a collaborative installation that will be on view at Rodman Hall beginning Nov. 17 and wrapping up alongside the full Material Girls exhibition Dec. 30.
The exhibition, for which tours are available Saturdays at 2 p.m., is curated by Blair Fornwald, Jennifer Matotek and Wendy Peart of the Dunlop Art Gallery, a unit of the Regina Public Library.