Allyson Mitchell’s Lady Sasquatch figures are a highlight of Oakville Galleries’ After My Own Heart.
AFTER MY OWN HEART at Oakville Galleries (Gairloch Gardens, 1306 Lakeshore; Centennial Square, 120 Navy, Oakville), to May 18. An off-screen presentation of the Images Festival. 905-844-4022. Rating: NNN
The second of Oakville's feminist art shows curated by Matthew Hyland - following 2010's excellent Un-home-ly - After My Own Heart brings together work about "feminist utopias," which may be code for "art by lesbians." (Isn't Oakville ready for the L word?)
Many of the contemporary artists here rework archival material from the 60s and 70s. Barbara Hammer's dreamy lesbian short film Dyketactics is the only piece dating from that time. (For a review of Hammer at TIFF, see page XX.)
Ulrike Müller and L.J. Roberts mine Brooklyn's Lesbian Herstory Archives, Müller for a conceptual project based on T-shirts and Roberts for a banner. Sharon Hayes collaborates with Kate Millett on voice-overs for a women's collective's raw 16mm footage of New York City's 1971 Christopher Street Liberation Day parade. Millett testifies about the mood of the marchers while Hayes wonders about lessons for today.
Elisabeth Subrin has remade with startling period accuracy a 60s documentary profiling Shulamith Firestone (author of The Dialectic Of Sex, who died last year), then an unknown young art student in Chicago. Onya Hogan-Finlay carried a sign reading "What would Lee Lozano do?" to an unnamed women-only gathering (the Michigan Women's Music Festival?) that bans trans-women. Lozano's conceptual projects included a "boycott" of women, whom she refused to relate to or admit to her exhibits.
Abstract, vaguely anatomical, layered paintings by Carrie Moyer and Allyson Mitchell's six Lady Sasquatch figures are the only wholly original works. For those who missed Mitchell's wonderful giant furry monsters at Paul Petro in 05, it's worth the trip for them alone.
In most of the other cases, though, the source material seems more compelling than what the artists have done with it.
As a participant in 70s feminism, I can empathize with the African-American woman who recently told a New York Times arts reporter, "Detroit isn't some kind of abstract art project. It's real for people. These are real memories. Every one of these houses has a story."