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  • BRIDGING VISIONS: Template Two

    an exhibition of visual, sonic and performance art
    is the second major action of the Templates for Activism Project.

    This model brings
    eight contemporary artists and their work into the 14th Biennial Conference of the National Association of Women and the Law (NAWL), entitled “Women, the Family and the State”.













Bridging Visions provided an occasion for NAWL conference delegates to visit and participate in a cultural event and for the eight artists to attend NAWL's presentations. This offered many possibilities for all concerned to see into each other's worlds and to openly share innovative concepts with each other and, subsequently, with the larger populations: art, law and general.

Bridging Visions offered the artists a framework in which to investigate the connection between law and the particularities of their own practice. Some artists built clearly evident links with legal practitioners, either personally or through their critical writings. As in law, many of the creators relied heavily on language and text, but in this case, language and text are used as 'art supplies'. Unlike law, much of the art is not meant to last. Ephemeral in nature, the transformative gestures [both personal and material] of making and conveying are more meaningful than the finished object's function as a commodity.

eight pieces in this gallery exemplify many contemporary artists' utilization of multiple techniques, diverse media and unexpected ingredients. The latest computer technology records and kneads the human voice, in the unconventional collaboration of Audrey Churgin's theatrical sound installation, and in Doug Samuel's reflective sound scape. The established tradition of painting, in combination with highly symbolic manipulation of scale, was called upon for Dawn Dale's monumental urban tableau and for Gayle Kells' figurative installation. Profound conditions of the body, and the dominance of its spirit, are portrayed with paper covered wire drawings and light in Kathy Gillis' fragile sculpture. Cindy Stelmackowich's tables, so carefully set with pins and found objects, deal with regulation and control. From a different vein, this same theme is addressed by Ngoc Tuyen Dang, who incorporates her found objects with shadow and drywall. Other construction materials, grocery bags, sticks and fire supply the collaborative production by feminist legal scholar Elizabeth Sheehy, c.j. fleury and other members of the law community.

"It is often said that community arts projects have the capacity for transformation. This type of experience is difficult to measure but to truly understand the powerful tool that is community arts, you must understand this transformation that occurs through an artistic process".
Melanie Fernandez, Head of Education, Art Gallery of Ontario.

Modern Community Art (as opposed to that of traditional cultures) grew from the "crucible of the late sixties" (Raven) as a strange cousin of the high art world, because of its radical process of inclusion. A form of cultural democracy, this genre of co-creation marries the progressive ideas of contemporary artists with the perceptual, conceptual and physical skills and the realities of non-arts groups.


The unfolding of this project's wide-ranging research and development, would not have been possible without the insight, commitment to collaborative process and creative vision of
Elizabeth Sheehy. Sincere thanks and great appreciation must be extended to my respected colleague. Since 1999, beginning with her desire to place the Messenger image on the cover of Canadian Feminist Literature on Law: An Annotated Bibliography, our ongoing discussion about the relationship and the potential between art and law has opened up exciting territory that Bridging Visions merely begins to articulate.

I would like to acknowledge the great injection of energy given to this process by NAWL's Executive Director, Bonnie Diamond and Andrée Côté, Director of Legislation and Law Reform, through their belief in this interdisciplinary work and their invitation to weave the
TEMPLATES for Activism project into the 2002 National Conference. The exhibition concept, choice of an appropriate space, the 'Call to Artists', as well as their final selection, were all done in partnership with various NAWL members.

From within my own field, two women must be recognized for their timely and inspirational tilling of the arts terrain. They possessed incisive vision as to the dire need to bridge the growing chasm between contemporary creators and the non-art public, whose connection to contemporary arts and their own creative processes is dangerously nonexistent. The imaginatively conceived and unprecedented projects that Annalee Adair designed for the City of Ottawa's Public Art Program, and the continuing opportunity to learn about the diversity and potential of Community Arts through Melanie Fernandez, during her years as Community Arts Officer at the Ontario Arts Council, have laid a solid foundation for the visions that I aspire to bridge and cross with others.

It has been both an honour and a fascinating adventure to share this process with Elizabeth Sheehy, the NAWL conference committees, the seven artists and various other members of the art and legal communities, who have believed in and contributed to this transformative process.

c.j. fleury, Project Director, Wakefield, QC

Bridging Visions: FEEDBACK


Anderson, Richard L.
1989. Art in Small Scale Societies. Prentice Hall. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.
Bouchard, Josée, Boyd, Susan B., Sheehy, Elizabeth A. 1999 Canadian Feminist Literature on Law: An Annotated Bibliography.Canadian Journal of Women and the Law, V.11/1&2. University of Toronto Press
Dissanayke, Ellen. 2000. Two Essays, The Haystack Monograph Series, Deer Isle, ME
1992. Homo Aestheticus. University of Washington Press.
Lee, Angela. 1998. Community Arts Workbook...Another Vital Link. Ontario Arts Council
Raven, Arlene. 1993. Art in the Public Interest. De Capo Press. New York.
Tolmie, Julia. 2001. Personal electronic communication. July

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c.j. fleury
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