Joyce Wieland


drawings, prints and work in other media
May 5 - June 3, 2017
Opening Reception Friday May 5, 7-10pm


Untitled, n.d.
pen and ink on paper
13 7/8 x 8 3/8 inches

Paul Petro Contemporary Art is pleased to present a collection-based exhibition of works on paper and prints by Joyce Wieland (1931-1998).

A prolific and influential Canadian artist, Wieland used traditional textile practices, film, sculpture and painting to create work exploring identity, feminism and Canadian nationalism.

Wieland attended Toronto’s Central Tech (grad. 1948) where she studied under Doris McCarthy, a landscape painter who was instrumental in encouraging her talents.

Wieland's first contact with filmmaking came through a position she held at Graphic Films in Toronto after completing high school. There she became acquainted with the means and mechanics of film animation, which was to be a structural source for her painting and filmmaking for years to come. It was also at Graphic Films that she met Michael Snow whom she married in 1956.

Together, they moved to New York in 1962, where they lived for nearly ten years, becoming involved with the rapidly developing American film avant-garde. Both Snow and Wieland produced films that shaped this important movement (in 1968 the Museum of Modern Art presented Five Films by Joyce Wieland), and they were instrumental in bringing underground film back to the Canadian art community.

In 1971, Wieland became the first living female to be the subject of a retrospective at the National Gallery of Canada. The show, True Patriot Love/Véritable amour patriotique, high-lighted the significance of her contribution of feminism, nationalism and ecological issues into Canadian art. – Ryerson Imagearts

Soon after the National Gallery exhibition, Wieland and Snow left New York and returned to live in Toronto. Her political activism continued: she participated in protests against the building of a hydroelectric dam in James Bay, in solidarity with Cree inhabitants of the area, and she was also involved with the group Canadian Artists’ Representation (CAR, later CARFAC, with the addition of the French counterpart, the Front des artistes canadiens), which initiated the system of payment by institutions and organizations to artists for exhibiting or reproducing their artworks.

In the early 1970s Wieland’s creative efforts were largely marshalled into the making of a feature film, The Far Shore; she wrote the script, directed the film, co-produced it, and also spent a lot of time fundraising. When the film was released in 1976, some fans of Wieland’s experimental films did not know what to make of this melodramatic period piece, a kind of alternative history based on the iconic Canadian painter Tom Thomson (1877–1917) and his lover, an entirely fictional female character. The film is now appreciated for its innovative approach to gender and landscape and as a genuine experiment with genre.

Wieland returned to painting in the 1980s, often devising hallucinatory imagery concerned with sexuality and spirituality rather than overtly political questions. In 1987 she was given a retrospective at the Art Gallery of Ontario. This exhibition provided a critical overview of her work, while synthesizing the two streams of her creative output: Wieland’s visual art production and her experimental films could be seen side by side.

In the 1990s Wieland’s health deteriorated, and she was eventually diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. A supportive community of women friends cared for her during her last years. Joyce Wieland died in Toronto on June 27, 1998. – Johanne Sloan / Art Canada Institute