COVID-19 can't break artistic bond for Tiny women's group

·5 min read

Nothing is stronger than the bonds of love and friendship during times of strife, and a simple wooden frame can be the proof of those bonds holding everyone together.

‘COVID 2020’ is a collection of art from 26 members of the Tiny Women's Art Cooperative/Coopérative des artistes féminins, installed over the holidays for display in the Lafontaine Community Centre at 342 Lafontaine Road West.

Each nine-square-inch contribution is a reflection of the isolation and inspiration shared within the pandemic. The coronavirus is the central theme, but each segment tells its own story; ranging from joyful to bleak, from blatant to obtuse, from realistic to abstract. The diversity of talent on display is acknowledged in an instant.

“For a lot of women, it’s about isolation,” said organizer Denise Baker. “How they felt lonely, and how they – our art group, our cooperative art circle – was a uniting force for us.

“It was very emotional for women to do this and to bring them together.”

Since 2018, the group of women has met in the Lafontaine Community Centre to connect, share and grow together as artists.

That changed in early 2020 when COVID-19 safety measures by the various levels of government isolated society as a whole, putting an emphasis on separation as a survival mechanism.

The centre closed its doors accordingly, and the Tiny collective of primarily retired women found themselves relying on digital communication to continue to meet, although at a distance from one another.

“In the fall of 2020, we decided that we would do a community project that would unite us,” Baker explained. “My husband (Bruce) cut out nine-by-nine Masonite slabs. We distributed the pieces, ‘at the doorstep - pick them up’ sort of thing, to bring them back. Then we assembled them with a couple of women and my husband framed it, and we displayed it in Lafontaine at Le Goût de vivre.”

Late in 2021, Baker and fellow contributor Diane Greenfield made a deputation to Tiny council, showing off the collection and asking for the piece to be installed at the centre. Council was very appreciative of the work, later approving the request.

The Tiny Women’s Art Collective aren’t the first to use artwork as a therapeutic means to cope with the changing world. Most notably, Edvard Munch of ‘The Scream’ fame created ‘Self-Portrait with the Spanish Flu’ in 1919, a painting of the bath-robed artist sitting alone in a confined room next to a messy bed.

On the last warm day of 2021, nearly a dozen of the members gathered to see ‘COVID 2020’, their individual works, and each other.

Suzanne Rose contributed the piece ‘The Gift of a Window.’

“We’re very fortunate to have windows in our homes during lockdown because we did spend a lot of time looking outside. I live by a pond, so I have access to a beautiful view. My grandchildren live nearby, so I thought it was a special gift to have windows all around me,” said Rose.

Gerit Taeger compiled a booklet with each of the art pieces, the artist and a brief description.

“I did the one on the right-hand corner,” said Taeger, pointing to her contribution ‘Communication.’ “It says ‘zoom’. I put together pieces – I’m not that familiar with painting, I don’t know how to paint – so I cut out magazine pictures and made a picture.

“It represents that we are all behind inside looking through the wall and are able to Zoom in order to get together because we couldn’t meet at the centre anymore.”

Halyna Mordowanec Regenbogen showed off her piece, ‘Falling Blue,’ a put-together of the various painting palettes she had accrued from other works of hers; her paint stick was also adhered onto the work.

“I think this (as a whole) shows that through the worst of times, which I think the pandemic has been and still is, that we still have hope and we still have joy, and we can project that in our work and to people, and hopefully they (viewers) will get that feeling that you can persevere and you can come out of it well.”

The next day, it snowed. Shortly after that, the omicron variant of the coronavirus warranted stricter health measures by governments, forcing limited social engagements once more.

Days before Christmas, Tiny staff installed ‘COVID 2020’ in the Lafontaine Community Centre, the interior of which will be closed to the public until further notice.

The 26 ‘COVID 2020’ artists are from left to right, along the first row: Bonnie DeVillers, ‘My Family’; Cynthia Mills, ‘Home & Health’; Patsy Lalonde, ‘A Bird's Eye View of Covid-19’; Lise Marchand-Belcourt, ‘Patience’; Gisèle Marchand-Maurice, ‘Is It Over Yet?’; Denise Baker, ‘A Forest Walk’; and Gerit Taeger, ‘Communication’. Second row: Ingrid Watt, ‘Quilt Friends’; Wendy McBurnie, ‘Sister Friends’; Carol Merino, ‘The Solace of Solitude’; Patty Thoms, ‘Finding Beauty in Change’; Sandra Porteous, ‘The Abundance of Deprivation’; Donna Thompson, ‘Masking Invaders’; and Polly Sharp, ‘Spaced Out’. Third row: Barb Trubic, ‘Pandemic’; Carrie Marchand, ‘Me+Covid=Staying Rooted in God's Word’; Sue Street, ‘The Year of 2020’; Suzanne Rose, ‘The Gift of a Window’; Anne Armstrong, ‘Silver Lining of Lockdown and Social Distancing’; Donna Thompson, ‘My Baby Angels’; and Anne Armstrong, ‘Bubbles in 2020’. Fourth row: Halyna Mordowanec Regenbogen, ‘Falling Blue’; Bibianne Legros, ‘Cardinals in The Pines’; Pat Taylor, ‘2020 Pandemic’; Donna Bernardo, ‘Let Me Hear My Heart Sing’; Diane Greenfield, ‘L'espoir’; and Diane Greenfield, ‘Breathe.’

Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca

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