Saturday, March 29

Art: Women, power and humour

Tanya Mars, a senior lecturer and program supervisor in visual and performing arts in the Department of Humanities at U of T Scarborough, is among the six winners of this year’s prestigious Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts given for artistic achievement. The awards were announced by the Canada Council for the Arts March 25.

Cited as one of Canada’s most innovative multidisciplinary artists, Mars has been active in the Canadian alternative art scene since the early 1970s. Her dramatic, humorous and satirical works -- ranging from performance through to sculpture and video -- have influenced an entire generation of artists in a career spanning some 30 years. She is a mentor to many emerging artists as an artist, teacher, curator and editor.

“My main interest is to make narratives that put women at the centre as opposed to the periphery. I’m trying to create images, strong images and positive images, of women,” she said in describing her work. “I feel very strongly about being recognized as a feminist, I’m not ashamed of being a feminist and I’m not buying into the backlash of anti-feminism. I think I’ll beat the feminist drum until the day I die. While some of my work my work may not be directly didactic or directly about feminism, I think it is always about making strong images about women.” But she added, “I like to have a healthy dash of humour. So I like to poke fun at my own political dogma and I think it’s important to laugh at yourself. If there were three words that would summarize my interests they would be women, power and humour.”

Her works include Tyranny of Bliss and In Pursuit of Happiness, which has toured Canada and Hot, a performance piece that reflects on middle age. She also edited art magazine Parallelogramme from 1976 to 1989 and is co-editor of Caught in the Act: An Anthology of Performance Art by Canadian Women.

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