“Prudence Heward, reputed for her steadfast portraits, was the first Canadian artist who stimulated my passion for feminist paintings that are psychologically complex. I remember being drawn to her paintings at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts from a young age, fascinated by the determination in the penetrating stares of her subjects, a revolt against the expected passivity of women at the beginning of the 20th century. Since then, Heward’s works have been an important influence in my own work. The subject of my painting is MLMA, an artist, stylist, model, and musician of Korean origin. She uses her body as a canvas, whether through photography and montage, body paint, or eccentric clothing. This utter disregard for western beauty standards captivates me, a reflection of my own struggles as a woman in the midst of finding her place in a world with such narrow beauty standards. “Subversion” was realized during the most strict confinement measures of the pandemic, a period of profound isolation and introspection. In a way, this work is an amalgam of appropriation: it reflects the juxtaposition of the historical Canadian feminist Heward, of the self-portraiture of the artist MLMA, and of my own psychological portrait, highlighting the challenge of gender conformism / conventionalism. The superimposing of text illustrates the bypassing of the masculine gaze, restoring the feminine figure as a real subject, rather than an object.”
— Solanne Bianchi Melchin (Grade 11, École secondaire publique De La Salle, Ottawa, Ontario)
Celebrated predominantly for her bold portraits of women, twentieth-century painter Prudence Heward (1896–1947) was a central figure in the Montreal art world, unmatched in her provocative, defiant depictions of modern women in the interwar years.