Guest blog post written by Elise Anne LaPlante
(This article has been translated from the original in French).
My name is Elise Anne LaPlante and I am an independent curator. I grew up in Moncton and I’ve always been interested in arts and culture. I pursued Communications in my academic studies, but always gravitated towards the arts. After 3 semesters of uncertainty, I made the leap on a whim and left to study Art History in Montreal. This spontaneous, perhaps instinctive decision ranks among the best decisions I have made in my life.
Curating for me is the answer to all of my career questions. I did not wish to become an artist, but the visual arts and artists impassioned me. I then discovered during my studies a passion for the conceptualization of exhibitions, and it’s in this direction that I wish to pursue my career, here in New Brunswick.
As a researcher and curator, I am particularly interested in feminist theories of art and more specifically in the representation of women artists in Acadian art history. Archives are at the heart of my curatorial practice and my interests.
I received two artsnb grants that contributed to a project that is close to my heart, but that also represents for me the most enriching and determining professional experience of my career so far; the research, exhibition and publication project Tombée dans les interstices. This project aimed to bring to light a few of the women who participated in the development of contemporary art in Acadie, but also to understand why the feminist theories in visual arts have seen so little uptake in Acadie and are even today little discussed in Acadian artistic practice.
Firstly, I received a grant that permitted me to travel to Montreal to participate in a colloquium at UQAM called « Perspectives féministes en histoire de l’art : ébranler les piliers de la discipline » (“Feminist perspectives in art history: Shaking the pillars of the discipline”), where I was to present my research, and also rub shoulders with my counterparts. The trip also permitted me to meet in person some of the artists who were part of my research.
I am very appreciative of having had the occasion to present my research concerning our franco-new-brunswick milieu outside of the province and to have been able to rouse interest in art from this community. However, it was the meetings that were the most fruitful. Partly with the colleagues present at the colloquium, but most of all with the artists presented in the exhibition. As a curator, these are relationships I greatly value. To discuss with these women their experiences and their reality in the context that was central to my research was certainly very enriching.
Secondly, I received a Documentation grant that was the principal source of funding for the production of a publication surrounding the exhibition. This publication, made possible thanks to financial support from artsnb, the Galerie d’art Louise-et-Reuben-Cohen and the Institut d’études acadiennes de l’Université de Moncton, permitted me to anchor in history the work of these women artists. In part, it involved granting them a much merited visibility, and in part (and most importantly) it involved bringing a contemporary regard to the phenomenon of marginalization, revisiting these works in the light of the present and studying the innovation of these works and their impact today.
The catalog put into circulation images of these remarkable works and offers them a type of permanence, but also serves as a pedagogical tool where feminism and the visual arts in an Acadian context are addressed, reflected on and revived as a subject of discussion. The work includes several critical texts from authors with diverse areas of specialty: Nelly Dennene, Executive Director of the Regroupement féministe du Nouveau-Brunswick; Penny Cousineau-Levine, Graduate Program Director and Professor of Visual Arts at the University of Ottawa and founder of the Galerie Explosion (a gallery in Moncton for women/by women that existed briefly in 1975-76); as well as myself, curator of the exhibition.
The project permitted me to make important connections with artists, research colleagues, and feminist researchers who specialized in other domains. I also believe the project succeeded in bringing together two communities, the feminist community established in Moncton (and more broadly in New Brunswick, through the Regroupement féministe du N.-B.) and the visual arts community. Several quite interesting discussions have followed from this connection.
Without it having been a premeditated choice, since it was primarily my own values and interests that brought me to this subject, I believe this research lines up with the times. The feminist struggles and demands for better social, economic and political conditions for women have certainly been very present in 2017 and I am particularly proud that this project has participated in that movement. I sense that my generation is mobilizing and awakening the debates that are still necessary, that feminism is topical and that even though the route is still long, change is indeed in the making.
I also wish to underline that the visual arts can and do contribute to social thought, including feminism. In addition, I am proud that the arts community (and artsnb) recognizes more and more the contribution of curators and of writing in the arts. It is with much enthusiasm that I wish to devote my career to a better recognition of artists, to anchoring their work in art history and to developing a critical discourse around their artistic practices. All this, I hope to do as a curator.
A graduate of art history at l’UQAM, Elise Anne LaPlante is an independent curator and cultural worker. Now living in her native Acadie, her research focuses primarily on the representation of women artists in Acadian art history and on theories about art and feminism. She is also interested in archives as well as alternative practices that explore the ambiguous spaces between disciplines and reprogram art history for artistic purposes.
Elise Anne is an active member of the Acadian art community, most notably through her critical writing (Liaison, Astheure, Mario Doucette’s Harias monograph), through coordination of art events (RE:FLUX Festival, Symposium d’art/nature, workshops on arts writing), through teaching (sessional at Université de Moncton) as well as through curator projects (Dérouler l’archive : LASART (1982) revisité (2015, 2017), (RE)voir (2016), Tombées dans les interstices (2017) and Images Rémanentes (2018)).
You can follow Elise Anne’s work on her website.
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