Thursday, 9 February 2017




With Valentines Day so close, you are likely to see a lot of images of things that look like this:

Image found on Google
As mass produced image as this is, a much deeper meaning can be found in this seemingly ordinary and highly flirtation icon.

Photo taken from the book Joyce Wieland
 In 1971, Joyce Wieland lined her lips with red waxy lipstick, pressed them to a lithograph while singing “O Canada”, making the mouth formations of each syllable in the song. The resulting print, titled “O Canada”, now in the National Gallery, is one of the pieces show cased in Wieland’s solo show, and first ever all female art exhibition in Canada, True Patriot Love, at the National Gallery, in 1971. She repeated the process of lipstick on lithograph two years later, and titled it “Squid Jiggin’ Grounds”. Wieland’s lipstick-lithographs created a powerful intersection between feminism, nationalism, and eroticism, that can still be appreciated today.

By using her mouth to make prints resembling lipstick stains, a distinctly female and slightly erotic icon, to materialize the song, “Squid Jiggin’ Grounds,” creates direct contrast and slight strain between the two elements. “Squid Jiggin’ Grounds” is originally a fisherman’s folk song from Newfoundland. Fishing in Newfoundland is a distinctly and almost exclusively male occupation. The intersection of masculinity, erotic feminity, nationalism, and implied motion in this piece is an example of the political activism Wieland has been known for.

Close up, taken from Caviar20
      The syllable sounds, written beneath each mouth formation, and the song title acting as art work title, are clues for the visitor to understand the piece. Each written syllable indirectly invites the viewer to move their mouths to feel each sound – suggesting this is meant to be interactive. Arguably, these prints could be performance art, a metamorphosis of Wieland’s acclaimed experimental films, frozen in time.“Squid Jiggin’ Grounds” was recently on display in the Esther and Arthur Gelber Treasury, surrounded by six other pieces by fellow progressive Canadian artists, Ron Giii, Stephen Andrews, Kim Moodie, and Tony Urquhart. The satellite gallery is part of a larger exhibition, Toronto: Tributes +Tributaries, 1971-1989, exploring, “the generation of artists that emerged in Toronto during the 1970s and 1980s [who] pushed the boundaries of conventional painting, sculpture and photography”.

Photo taken from the book Joyce Wieland
       Although it has been removed due to construction started in January, it is still available for viewing on Wednesday afternoons in the AGO’s print and drawing rooms, in the south-west corner of the first floor of the museum. If you walk into the Esther and Arther Gelber Treasury, turn left and walk to the front desk, one of the museum’s volunteers would be happy to show you where it is. If you don’t have time to get to the museum, “Squid Jiggin’ Grounds” was recently posted on the AGO’s Instagram page, and is definitely worth a look.

Joyce Weiland fought throughout her career to build a place for women’s artwork in the professional world. Her use of an under rated yet very common icon of female eroticism, flirtation, and indirectly female empowerment, to turn a patriarchal song on its head and own it, is something Wieland is fondly remembered of in Canada. The imprints of her lips are the best material memory we have her. Its makes it difficult to look at a kiss the same way again.

Photo taken from the book Joyce Wieland

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