Image Arts Course Union showcases female and non-binary artists

The lights dimmed in the Alumni Lounge of Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre and a hush fell over the crowd of well-dressed art students. Their attention averted to a screen projecting the words “Girl Talk.”

The film is perfectly suited to open the Women in Art showcase hosted by the Image Arts Course Union (IMACU), which features films, paintings, photography and live music—all created by female and non-binary artists.

“Girl Talk,” a short film by second-year film student Alessandra Sconza, highlights the different perspectives of four girls on what it’s like to grow up as a female. The girls discuss personal experiences with identity, body image, future aspirations and other women who have influenced them.

“I feel very powerful being a woman,” says Leché Hope Whiteman in the film. These words seemed to radiate in the room for the rest of the evening.

Evie Brooks, a first-year film student who was also featured in “Girl Talk,” emphasizes the need for proper female representation on screen and strives to fix this issue in her own film projects.

“There are already so many men on screen that it’s nice—if you’re telling a new story—to also tell it with an underrepresented gender,” she says.

When writing a new story for film, Brooks doesn’t make specific roles for women. Instead, she creates a multifaceted character whose storyline doesn’t revolve around a man, and casts a woman to play the role if she is the best fit. “That’s when you’re going to reach equal representation,” she says.

Robyn Matuto, a second-year film student and the president of the IMACU, is also familiar with the problem of female underrepresentation on screen. Matuto aims to include women, especially women of colour, in her projects

She knows that many of the industries Ryerson arts students aspire to enter are not the most welcoming spaces for women and non-binary folks. This is one of the reasons why she sees the need to showcase female and non-binary artistic talent.

“Having this event and working with our team, which is all female execs, has really helped me see how we are making strides in the industry,” Matuto says. “And it could be something as small as this, where we’re just showcasing art made by people who don’t usually get the chance to have their own safe space for it.”

However, Matuto says that despite being a show for women and non-binary artists, the art itself doesn’t necessarily have to focus on issues of gender.

Conversely, some artists like Mara Goldbloom can’t help but incorporate their gender identity into their art.

“Anything I do is inherently filtered through my own lens, which is of a non-binary person, so gender affects everything I do,” she said. “But [in] my pieces specifically, I explore gender as well as other topics.”

She mixes concepts of gender with mental health, love and monogamous or polyamorous expression, and sometimes plays with the idea of gender stereotypes in her various art media.

“There is this question of, ‘Do we define our art, or does our art define us?’” Goldbloom asks.

The second-year film student says she is in a constant state of deciding whether or not to describe herself as a non-binary artist or a feminist artist, and what it means to use those titles.

“I think that there’s a power to those words, but I also think that there’s a power from saying, ‘I’m just an artist. Take me as I am,’” she said.

According to Goldbloom, having a show dedicated to women and non-binary artists means having a space where like-minded people can challenge each other, without feeling like their gender or worldview is threatened for being “outside of the norm.”

That being said, she also thinks the art community has much room to grow when it comes to accepting all genders.

“I don’t know if that’ll happen in my lifetime, which makes me a little sad,” she says. “But I think the only thing I can do is continue to support events like this, and continue to show my own art and encourage other women and non-binary people to show their art in any way they can.”

All images by Madeline Cornacchia