Thursday, March 15, 2018

Artist Statement and Curriculum Vitae

Image: Gender Reveal Cake, 2011, mixed media (child’s tutu, lingerie, polyester fibrefill, cardboard, thread) on glass stand. cake: 11.75” diameter, 6.5” high. Click to enlarge.


My work positions gender as a social construct, with an emphasis on fashion as a form of Othering. Using media images and girls’ store bought clothing as inspiration, I explore Simone de Beauvoir’s perspective that “…everything that accentuates difference in the Other makes her more desirable” (The Second Sex, trans., Paris: Gallimard, 1972, p. 192). By highlighting the early age at which girls are exposed to this tendency, I support gender independence.

I see my work as referencing the crossroads of modernism and postmodernism: in making soft sculpture with garments and fabric as the starting point, and in creating embroideries with hints of three-dimensionality, I revisit the modern fixation on flatness in art. And, in making wearable art, I continue the tradition of Second Wave feminists incorporating their own bodies into their work as a postmodern form of protest.

To view a slideshow of images, please see Art Slant.



History of Art Masters, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON
Library and Information Studies Masters, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON
Art and Art History Bachelor of Arts (Honours with High Distinction), University of Toronto and Sheridan College, Mississauga and Oakville, ON


Professional appointments:

The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH, Director of Ingalls Library
Nipissing University, North Bay, ON, Manager, Digital Resources and Information Services (Aug. 2016 onwards), Manager, Reference and Information Services (to Aug. 2016), Harris Learning Library
Purchase College, State University of New York, Purchase, NY, Art Librarian (Faculty, Tenure Track)


Nipissing University, North Bay, ON, Part-time instructor, Dept. of Fine and Performing Arts
2012 (4 mts.)
Queen’s University, Interim Administrative Coordinator, Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Kingston, ON
University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Image Researcher and Cataloguer, Fine Art Dept.

Purchase College, State University of New York, Faculty Support Award (exhibition assistance)
2009, 2010
New York State/ United University Professions, Professional Development Award (travel/ conference presentations)
National Gallery of Canada Library & Archives, Ottawa, ON, TD Bank Financial Group Internship
Visual Resources Association, Davis Art Images International Travel Award (conference attendance)
Art Libraries Society of North America Ontario Chapter Travel Grant (conference presentation)
Sheridan College, Art and Art History program, Clear Thinking Studio Award


Juried and/or academic presentations of work:

A.I.R. Gallery, Brooklyn, NY, Currents (with Cassandra), juried by Barabara Zucker
White Water Gallery, North Bay, ON, En Masse: 40 Years of Flux
White Water Gallery, North Bay, ON, The Future of Human(ity) (with Alex Landon Richardson), organized by Nipissing University
Whitdel Arts, Detroit, MI, CROTCH: Contested Territory
Trestle Gallery, Brooklyn, NY, Small Works
A.I.R. Gallery, Brooklyn, NY (with Erin Finley), Who’s Afraid of Feminism? (online exhibition and catalogue), curated by Catherine Morris
WKP Kennedy Gallery, North Bay, ON, 40 Below, juried by Tanya Lukin-Linklater
Koehnline Museum of Art, Oakton Community College, Des Plaines, IL, Gendering Desire: Liberation, Power, and Pleasure
Propeller Centre for the Visual Arts, Toronto, ON (with Erin Finley), The Sex Offensive: Emancipating Gender
Thunder Bay Art Gallery, Thunder Bay, ON, The North Now, juried by David Garneau, Carol Podedworny, and Andrea Terry
33 Contemporary Gallery, Chicago, IL, Copy.right? The Art of Appropriation, curated by Sergio Gomez and Jennifer Moore
Propeller Centre for the Visual Arts, Toronto, ON, 13, curated by Robin Hesse and Katie Micak
Annual Women’s History Conference (Women, the Arts and Activism), Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, NY, Opera Yoko, live drawing collaboration with Erin Finley, 2-3 Mar.
Grunwald Gallery of Art, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, Kinsey Institute Juried Art Show, juried by Louise Lippincott, Betsy Stirratt, and Catherine Johnson-Roehr
Eyelevel Gallery, Halifax, NS, Reshelving Initiative
Brooklyn Artists Gym, Brooklyn, NY, Voyeur: See and Be Seen
Diane Farris Gallery, Vancouver, BC, Twitter/Art + Social Media, juried by Lili Vierira de Carvalho, Kris Krug, Maria Lantin, and Hank Bull, curated by Lili Vierira de Carvalho
Red Head Gallery, Toronto, ON, Insomnia
A.I.R. Gallery, Brooklyn, NY, Furthermore: 8th Biennial of Women Artists, juried by Lilly Wei
Grosvenor Gallery, State University of New York, Cobleskill, NY, National Small Works Exhibition, juried by Gary Bower
Future Tenant Gallery (affiliated with Carnegie Mellon University), Pittsburgh, PA, I-am-a-Heather, curated by Heather Mallak
First Canadian Place Gallery, Toronto, ON, Best of 2007 (Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition award recipients)
Art Gallery of Mississauga, Mississauga, ON, AAHLUMINEX (selected Art and Art History alumni), juried by Robert Freeman
Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition, Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto, ON - Honourable Mention, Sculpture, award juried by Tom Dean
Glenhyrst Art Gallery of Brant, Brantford, ON, Juried Art Exhibition, juried by Catherine Elliot-Shaw and Martin Pearce; curated by Kathryn Hogg - Honourable Mention
Timmins Museum and National Exhibition Centre, Timmins, ON, Inaugural Boreal North Sculpture Association Exhibition, juried by Peter Sloan and Amy Switzer - Award of Merit
Cambridge Galleries, Cambridge, ON, Fibreworks, juried by Jennifer Angus, Ingrid Bachman, and Betty Ann Jordan
Art Gallery of Peel, Brampton, ON, 26th Annual Juried Exhibition, juried by John Armstrong and Brian Meehan - Jurors’ Award


Gallery 1313, Toronto, ON, Titillate
Gallery 1313, Toronto, ON, When I Was Just a Little Girl: Que Sera, Sera?
WKP Kennedy Gallery, North Bay, ON, Please Touch

Textile Museum of Canada, Toronto, ON installation assistant for A Spider’s Logic by Kai Chan
White Water Gallery and WKP Kennedy Gallery, North Bay, ON, project manager for A Retrospective of Artists in North Bay and Surrounding Areas, an online exhibition hosted by Virtual Museum of Canada/ Canadian Heritage Information Network
Camera Frontera (multi-venue photography festival), North Bay, ON, juror and member of steering committee
White Water Gallery, North Bay, ON, coordinator for 20 exhibitions in one year as Director


Peer-reviewed articles:
Saunders, Heather and Ryan W. Taylor. “The Art and Environment of Embedded Librarianship,” College & Undergraduate Libraries, 2014 21.2: 145-154.
Book review: Whatever is Contained Must be Released: My Jewish Orthodox Girlhood, my Life as a Feminist Artist by Helène Aylon. MP: An Online Feminist Journal 3.6.

Conference proceedings:
Chatalbash, Rachel, Celia Hartmann, Denis Lessard, and Mario Raminez, eds. Artists’ Records in the Archives: 11-12 Oct., 2011, New York Public Library and the Fashion Institute of Technology: 80-82. New York: Archivists Round Table of Metropolitan New York, Inc.

Catalogues edited:
Saunders, H., ed. A Vital Force: The Canadian Group of Painters. Kingston and Oshawa: Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen’s University and the Robert McLaughlin Gallery.

Other publications:
Book review: Landscape into Eco Art by Mark Cheetham, ARLIS NA Reviews, July.
Exhibition preview: “Exhibition - Alex Jovanovich,” Members Magazine, The Cleveland Museum of Art, May/June, 10.
Book review: Foucault on Painting by Catherine M. Soussloff, ARLIS NA Reviews, May.
Book review: A Generous Vision: The Creative Life of Elaine de Kooning by Cathy Curtis, ARLIS NA Reviews, March.
Book review: Women Artists in Paris, 1850-1900 by Laurence Madeline, ARLIS NA Reviews, January.
Essay: “The Ecstasy (and Agony) of Painting in a Male-Dominated Art World: Eleanor Mackey,” Edges of Abstraction, North Bay Regional Curatorial Collective.
Catalogue essay: “Fight or Flight: The Return of the Sublime in the Drawings of Amanda Burk,” Stories of Contentment and Other Fables, Thunder Bay Art Gallery.
Book review: Feminist Avant-Garde: Art from the 1970s/ The SAMMLUNG VERBUND Collection by Gabriele Schor, ARLIS NA Reviews, April.
Book review: The Rise and Fall of the Fine Art Print in Eighteenth-Century France by W. McAllister Johnson, ARLIS NA Reviews, January.
Book series review: Art Canada Institute Online Art Books, ARLIS NA Multimedia & Technology Reviews, August.
Book review: Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs by Sally Mann, Magenta Magazine Spring, 7.1.
Exhibition review: The Summit Meetings by Raphaëlle de Groot, Art Gallery of Windsor, Magenta Magazine Winter, 6.3.
Exhibition review: Behind Closed Doors: Body of Evidence by Natascha Niederstrass, Gallery 101, Ottawa, ON, Magenta Magazine Summer/Fall, 6.2.
Exhibition text: “Harvesting Environmental Justice: Environmental Bookworks by Lise Melhorn-Boe” for It’s Fine, It’s Fine, Everything’s Fine, Kingston School of Art, Kingston, ON.
Book review: International Contemporary Art, Show Time: The 50 Most Influential Exhibitions of Contemporary Art by Jens Hoffman, C Magazine 123: 67-68.
Book review: Provenance: An Alternate History of Art edited by Gail Feigenbaum and Inge Reist, ARLIS NA Reviews, May/ June.
Book review: Push Comes to Shove: New Images of Aggressive Women by Maud Lavin, ARLIS NA Reviews, May/ June.
Book review: Rethinking the Contemporary Art School: The Artist, the PhD, and the Academy by Brad Buckley and John Conomos, ARLIS NA Reviews, June/ July.
“Coping With and Preventing Environmental Loss through Art: A Tale of Two Cities,” Women & Environments International, University of Toronto 72/73: 40-41.

Social media:
Selected posts for the Cleveland Museum of Art:
Keynote summary: “Michelle Obama in Conversation with Dr. Carla Hayden at the American Librarian Association Conference,” Ingalls Library Blog, 3 July. 2018.
Programming overview: “CMA’s Ingalls Library and Museum Archives Joins International Effort to Write Women into Art History,” CMA Thinker, 16 Mar. 2018.
Employee profile: “Introducing Beth Owens, Research and Scholarly Communications Librarian,” Ingalls Library Blog, 23 Feb. 2018.
Film review: “A Librarian’s Response to Frederick Wiseman’s Ex Libris,” Ingalls Library Blog, 19 Oct. 2017.
Book review: “Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng,” Ingalls Library Blog, 29 Sept. 2017.
Employee profile: “Celebrating the Career of Chris Edmonson,” Ingalls Library Blog, 31 July 2017.
Book signing overview: “Queering Identity: Crafting Identity and Community @ MOCA Cleveland,” Ingalls Library Blog, 19 June 2017.
Guest blog posts for Paradigm Shift (
*Panels overview: 28 Feb. 2015. “Getting out of the Groove: The Feminist Art Project at the Museum of Arts and Design, NY.”
*Exhibition review: Feed by Martynka Wawrzyniak, Envoy Enterprises, New York, NY, “The Consumptive Gaze,” 31 Oct. 2014.
*Book review: Box Girl by Lillibet Snellings, 15 Sept. 2014.
*Exhibition review: Chicago in L.A.: Judy Chicago’s Early Work, 1963-74, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY, “Judy Chicago at the Brooklyn Museum and Environs,” 23 Apr. 2014.
*Performance review: Between the Door and the Street by Suzanne Lacy et al., Brooklyn, NY, “Feminists en masse in Prospect Heights,” 21 Nov. 2013.
*Book review: Pussy Riot! A Punk Prayer for Freedom published by The Feminist Press at the City University of New York, 13 Oct. 2013.
*Book review: Gendered: Art and Feminist Theory by Tal Dekel, 15 July 2013.
*Exhibition review: Ana Mendieta - Late Works 1981-85, Galerie Lelong, New York, NY, 23 May 2013.
Artist in Transit


ARLIS/NA New England Chapter, “Scholarly Communication in Arts Librarianship” (webinar panelist), 14 Nov.
Annual Northeast Modern Language Association Convention, Hartford, CT, “Regressive Conservative: Margaret Sutherland’s Nude Portrait of Prime Minister Stephen Harper” (panelist and chair), 17-20 Mar.
Ontario Library Association (OLA) Super Conference (Library Lab: The Idea Incubator), Toronto, ON, “Rainbow Bridges: Ryerson’s Community Building with the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives,” (convenor, by invitation from Paula Cardozo, University of Lethbridge), 27-30 Jan.
OCAD University, Social Media and Creative Research (panelist, by invitation from organizer, Art Libraries Society of North America Ontario chapter), 17 Oct.
South Atlantic Modern Language Association Conference (Cultures, Contexts, Images, Texts: Making Meaning in Print, Digital, and Networked Worlds), Atlanta, GA, “The Blog as an Extended Artist Statement” (panelist), 8-10 Nov.
Columbia University Libraries Symposium (New Models of Academic Collaboration), New York, NY, “The Art and Environment of Embedded Librarianship” with Ryan W. Taylor, SUNY Purchase, 16 Mar.
University of Toronto at Mississauga, Out of Joint: Voices on Mentoring, in conjunction with Viva Voce exhibition at Blackwood Gallery (panelist, by invitation from Jill Caskey), 21 Oct.
Biennial Conference on Image and Imagery (Silence and the Silenced) Brock University, St. Catharines, ON “Hush Baby Girl: The Silencing of Females in Visual and Popular Culture Manifested in Art,” 28-29 Oct.
The Archivists Round Table of Metropolitan New York Symposium (Artists’ Records in the Archives) New York Public Library and the Fashion Institute of Technology, “Archiving Social Media Content by Artists,” 11-12 Oct.
Mid-Atlantic Women’s Studies Association Conference, Montgomery College, Takoma Park, MD, “Feminist Self-Publishing from an Artist’s Perspective,” 11 June.
Arts for Social and Environmental Justice Symposium, Royal Conservatory of Music, Toronto, ON, “Art and the Environment @ Purchase: Lessons Learned from Interdisciplinary Collaboration,” with Ryan W. Taylor, SUNY Purchase, 13-15 May.
Art Libraries Society of North America Conference, Boston, MA, “Blogging as an Artist/Librarian Hybrid,” 23-26 Apr.
International Congress on Medieval Studies, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI. “Redefining Medieval Patronage: Female Circulation of Books of Hours,” 7-10 May.
Art Libraries Society of North America Conference (Transcontinental Perspectives), Banff, AB, “Internet Art: In Search of a Best Practice that Balances Archivists’ Conflicting Responsibilities,” 5-9 May.

The Intown Club, Cleveland, OH, “Female Firsts: Celebrating American Trailblazers in the Art World” (guest speaker), Jan. 7 (forthcoming)
Textile Art Alliance (The Cleveland Museum of Art), Artist Talk, May 2
The Cleveland Museum of Art, “Female Firsts: Celebrating American Trailblazers in the Art World” (guest speaker, by invitation from the Womens Council), Jan. 9
Nipissing University, Directed Studio Research and Professional Practice class (instructor Alex Landon Richardson), North Bay, ON, “DIY Archiving,” 18 Dec.
White Water Gallery, North Bay, ON, Salon des féministes, Art + Politics, “Regressive Conservative: Margaret Sutherland’s Nude Portrait of Prime Minister Stephen Harper,” with Integrity in Politics choir, 3 Oct.
Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art, Winnipeg, MB, “Archiving for Artists,” 6 May.
Nipissing University, Directed Studio Research and Professional Practice class (instructor Amanda Burk), North Bay, ON, “Anticipating the Archive: Preparing your Personal Papers as an Artist,” 7 Feb.
Art Gallery of Mississauga, “Social Media: The Basics,” Mississauga, ON, 25 June.
Sheridan College, Oakville, ON, Guest Artist Series (Art and Art History program) 23 Feb.
Purchase College, State University of New York, Artist Talk, Queer Media Convergence class (instructor Shaka McGlotten), 3 Dec.


Nipissing University:

Art Against the Academy, FAVA2236, Fall 2016
Arts and Culture in Modern and Contemporary Canada, FAVA2277, Winter 2016
Modern Art and Social Movements, cross-listed with Gender Equality and Social Justice, FAVA2237, Fall 2015
Modern Art and Design History II (20th C.), cross-listed with Gender Equality and Social Justice, FAVA2237, Winter 2014, Winter 2015
Modern Art and Design History I (19th C.), cross-listed with Gender Equality and Social Justice, FAVA2236, Fall 2014
Library instruction sessions for students at graduate and undergraduate level, 2012-2017

Purchase College, State University of New York:

Art and the Environment, co-taught with Ryan W. Taylor, ENV 2260, Winter 2010
Library instruction sessions for gallery curators and docents, as well as students in arts management (undergraduate level), studio art (undergraduate and graduate level), and art history (undergraduate and graduate level), and College Writing freshman course; 2018-10

International Language School of Canada:

ESL Instructor for teens and adults, 2001-02

Manuscript Referee, Art Documentation, Art Libraries Society of North America, Oak Creek, WI
Editor (Interim), Currents newsletter (summer issue), Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON
Associate Editor (Contract), annual volumes of Libraries Canada and Governments Canada, Grey House Publishing Canada, Toronto, ON
Indexer and bibliographer, Posner, Helaine, and Nancy Princenthal, eds. The Deconstructive Impulse: Women Artists Reconfigure the Signs of Power. Purchase, NY and Munich: DelMonico Books·Prestel.
Manuscript Referee, Art Documentation, Art Libraries Society of North America, Oak Creek, WI
Research Assistant, MacDonald, C. S. A Dictionary of Canadian Artists. Vol. 9. Newlands, Anne and Judith Parker, eds. Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada.
Co-editor with Matthew Ryan Smith. Annual Art Journal, Department of Fine Art, University of Toronto (inaugural issue)
Editorial Board Member, Library Student Journal, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY
Publisher, FUSE magazine, Arton’s Publishing, Toronto, ON
Assistant Editor, Contact (peer-reviewed), TESL (Teachers of English as a Second Language) Ontario, Toronto, ON
Arts and Entertainment Editor, The Medium (University of Toronto newspaper), Mississauga, ON

Member, Travel Award Selection Committee, Art Libraries Society of North America Ohio Valley chapter
Board member, White Water Gallery, North Bay, ON
Treasurer and Membership Coordinator, Ontario Chapter, Art Libraries Society of North America
Member, Gerd Muesham Award Selection Committee, Art Libraries Society of North America
Chair, Archives Committee, Ontario Chapter, Art Libraries Society of North America


Nipissing University:
Librarian representative, Special Joint Committee, Nipissing University Faculty Association
Chaired hiring committee for contract Librarian
Served on hiring committee for Manager, Archives and Access Services
Member of Fine and Performing Arts marketing committee and strategic planning committee
Alternate Team Leader, Archives Disaster Recovery Plan, Harris Learning Library
Ambassador, Ontario College and University Library Association
Served on hiring committee, Assistant Professor, Art History and Visual Studies (Long-term appointment)
Co-curated Sneak Peek BFA exhibition, The Westlake Gallery, North Bay, ON, with Alex Landon Richardson
Participate in mid-year and end-of-year Bachelor of Fine Arts critiques
Contract Academic Staff Bargaining Unit representative (elected annually)
Served on hiring committee for Manager of Archives and Special Collections
Participated in Institutional Quality Assurance Process (IQAP review) for Gender Equality and Social Justice
Served on hiring committee for numerous support staff positions and on one external Appointment and Promotion Committee
Participated in Institutional Quality Assurance Process (IQAP review) for Anthropology

Purchase College, State University of New York:
Served on hiring committee for Reference and Instruction Librarian
Co-organized library workshops for faculty union
Library liaison for Campus Life committee and Meserve-Kunhardt Foundation (on-campus photography archive)
Chaired hiring committee for Visual Resources Associate
Served on hiring committee for Visiting Assistant Professor of Arts Management
Served on two faculty review committees
Served on Arts Management Board of Study
Interim coordinator of Visual Resources Collection, including management of three graduate students

Co-organizer (with Rebecca Kasperavicius), Art + Feminism Wikipedia edit-a-thon, White Water Gallery, North Bay, ON
Member, gallery advisory committee, WKP Kennedy Gallery, North Bay, ON
Art Gallery of Mississauga, organized community reading room
Sheridan College, Oakville, ON, technology tutor, Elderly Technology Assistance Program
North Bay Literacy Council, North Bay, ON, tutor
St. Christopher House, Toronto, ON, ESL tutor
Frontier College, Toronto, ON, ESL tutor
Community Living Mississauga, Mississauga, ON, Assisted student with learning disabilities develop writing skills

Gathercole, Gayle, ed. “Trailblazing Women Artists: A Talk by a Trailblazing Woman Artist.” Jottings, The Womens Council of the Cleveland Museum of Art, January.
Announcements of appointment:
DeMarco, Laura. “Cleveland Museum of Art Appoints New Director of the Ingalls Library” The Plain Dealer, 14 Feb.
“Heather Saunders Appointed Director of Ingalls Library at the Cleveland Museum of Art.” Art Daily, 15 Feb.
“Morning Links: Girl Scout Cookie Edition – Museums” ARTnews, 15 Feb.
“Transitions” Hyperallergic, 17 Feb.
Robinson, Christopher. Interview re. The Future of Human(ity) at White Water Gallery, Cogeco TV, July.
Smith, Matthew Ryan. “The Birds and the Bees: Heather Saunders’s Freaky Friday series.” Text accompanying work in progress at College Art Association ARTexchange, organized by Sharon Butler and Timothy Nolan, College Art Association conference, New York.
Boyum, Sarah. “Juried Art Show Displays Work with Sex Themes.” Indiana Daily Student, Indiana University, 20 May.
Inwood, Hillary, and Ryan W. Taylor. “Creative Approaches to Environmental Learning: Two Perspectives on Teaching Environmental Art Education.” International Electronic Journal of Environmental Education 2.1 (2012): 65-75 (peer-reviewed).
Régimbal, Christopher. “Bleaching Out All the Kevins,” essay for Titillate, Gallery 1313. See post below.
Feminist Task Force, American Library Association. “Feminist Librarians on the Web.”
Visual Arts Ontario. Profile, Agenda, Winter.
Landry, Mike. Interview, Things of Desire, 1.12.
Burns, Garry. “Juried Exhibition for All Tastes,” Brantford Expositor 18 Nov.
University of Toronto and Sheridan College Art and Art History website. 10 Graduates. Defunct.
Cove-Shannon, Miranda. “Expect the Unexpected,” Echo Weekly 20-26 Jan.
Kallis, Laurie. “UTM Alumni Explore Women and Wonderland,” The Medium (University of Toronto newspaper), 24 Jan.
Fraser, Oona. Radio interview, CKMS 100.3, University of Waterloo.

French (reading ability)
German (reading ability)

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Recent and Upcoming

As noted by Hyperallergic, ARTnews, ArtDaily, and Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer, I joined the Cleveland Museum of Art in May 2017 as Director of the Ingalls Library. I am humbled and honored by this exciting opportunity. If you have not visited the museum before, this video gives a terrific overview of it.
On May 2, 2018, I was the guest speaker for the annual general meeting of the museum's Textile Art Alliance and on January 9, 2018, I presented Female Firsts: Celebrating American Trailblazers in the Art World to the Womens Council of the Cleveland Museum of Art. While showing resources from the Ingalls Library for the latter presentation, I highlighted 13 artists, all of whom are included in the CMA collection: Mary Cassatt (1844-1926), Edmonia Lewis (1844-1907), Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986), Augusta Savage (1892-1962), Louise Nevelson (1899-1988), Margaret Bourke-White (1904-1971), Agnes Denes (1931-), Yoko Ono (1933-), Judy Chicago (1939-), Jenny Holzer (1950-), Cindy Sherman (1954-), Shirin Neshat (1957-), and Lorna Simpson (1960-). When it became clear that not all of the women in the long list I considered had a Wikipedia entry, the Ingalls Library and Museum Archives committed to host a Wikipedia edit-a-thon through Art+Feminism. I wrote about the event on the CMA Thinker. I look forward to repeating the Female Firsts presentation at the Intown Club on January 7, 2019.

I am pleased to have had a work in the latest Currents exhibition at A.I.R. Gallery (January 4-February 4, 2018) that I made in collaboration with the newly pseudonymous artist, Cassandra. The exhibition featured Dottie Attie, Sabra Moore, Mira Schor, and others, and was curated by Barbara Zucker.

It was great fun to return to White Water Gallery in North Bay for the opening of En Masse: 40 Years of Flux (July 6 - August 6, 2017). In my text-based wearable art that was featured in the group show, I reflect on my experience as former director and later as coordinator of a digital archives project. I am pictured with Executive Director, Serena Kataoka.

Monday, February 04, 2013

The Birds and the Bees: Heather Saunders’s Freaky Friday Series

By Matthew Ryan Smith

 Annabelle, when you're grown-up, people don't tell you what to do; 
 you have to tell yourself, which is sometimes much more difficult. (i) 

Desire and sex and lust. The conflation of signifiers of sensuality and femininity in female clothing points to a rigorous sexualization of the body beginning in girlhood, through their dress and the way it’s worn. Lace, fishnet, silk, leather, satin, chiffon and latex are shown in their various iterations in children’s fashion. The same materials, fabrics and the words used to describe them host different meanings and associations in adulthood. Yet, somewhere in this liminal divide, childhood and adulthood speak to each other, and the conversation is uncomfortable, like the first time you heard about the birds and the bees.

Trickery and shame and confusion. North Bay, Ontario artist Heather Saunders’s recent series Freaky Friday deconstructs children’s dresses (size 6 or smaller) and reconstructs them into women’s lingerie. Doing so represents a point of intervention into the troubled transition between child and adult clothing (girl and woman fabrics). In this radical strategy for re-appropriation, the physical materials and fabrics originally used for female children’s clothing are imbued with a lurid sexuality fit only for adulthood. The referents to childhood lurk uneasily in Saunders’s lace pale pink bra and black lace underwear. For Anne Hamlyn, fabric is bound up in “the persistent undecidability of the fetishistic fantasy,” (ii) which complicates notions of sexual difference and, to that end, the very notion of the object of desire itself. In Saunders’s work, when fabric is re-appropriated for adulthood means from childhood ends, the powerful shift in meaning denotes that the fetishistic fantasy involving satin, lace and silk may actually be a fetish for youth.

The photographs of Saunders modelling her revised children’s clothing are sexy enough to be convincing but have too many reminders of daily non-glamourized life to be mistaken for boudoir imagery (like cheap apartment flooring and the common backdrop), which cleverly establishes a tension befitting of the project. These amateurized and boudoir-esque images provide a sickening jolt to the senses, which is spurred on by the idea that Saunders’s highly sexualized (adult) body and gaze is subversively marked by children’s clothing, robbing them of their innocence, virtue and purity. This duping, however unexpected or undesired, produces what Brian Massumi calls “a shock to thought,” (iii) that which provokes and stimulates a sustained intellectual inquiry, embodied here as an inquiry into the character of children’s clothing and its unstable relationship to sexuality, femininity and fetishization.

In another work, albeit similar in style and execution, Saunders has cut up a size 6 dress, which includes fuchsia sparkled animal print and shirring with a fuchsia ribbon, and converted it into a salacious negligee. The ribbon that was placed below the waist in the original children’s dress has been relocated to just below the bust (making it an empire waist) in Saunders’s strapless adaptation. The cut, particularly the cutting of female clothing, harks back to Yoko Ono’s iconic Cut Piece (1964) in which the artist invited participants from her audience at Carnegie Hall to mark or take away pieces of her clothing with large silver scissors. With Freaky Friday Saunders has revised Cut Piece in her own way, this time using herself as both the audience and the subject, as a constituent of the double gaze. Although here it’s unapologetically trashy, it’s also a wearable sculptural object inscribed with an edifying autobiographical undertext.

Thus far childless, Saunders, an artist in her 30s, confesses that the Freaky Friday series is as much about children’s clothing as it is about the artist’s concern for placing her imaginative daughter in it. Mary Rodgers’s classic children’s novel Freaky Friday, while giving Saunders’s series its name, also serves as a palpable conceptual template. In the book, a young girl named Annabelle Andrews awakens in her mother’s body (and vice versa) on a Friday morning after a serious argument the previous night. Therefore, in a roundabout way, by wearing young girls’s dresses, Saunders connects herself to the daughter she may never know. Further, the series points to what trauma theorist Cathy Caruth describes as the “double wound,” a trauma inflicted to both the body in a physical sense and the mind in a Freudian sense. (iv) Saunders’s work reconciles her body’s fertility with a mindful fear that bearing children exposes them to a system of representation that sexualizes and fetishizes the other skin they wear.

Although Saunders runs the risk of criticism for self-glorification, which many feminist artists have experienced, the benefit of using her own body to model is that it acts as a personal commentary as much as a socio-political commentary. Freaky Friday is a trial of signification, an uncomfortable interstice between innocence and sex, young and adult, fantasy and fetish. It’s a sensationalized staging of smut with sinister substance. Heather Saunders has made manifest a veritable “clothing line” of little girls in pretty dresses with awkward associations, each questioning the state of the art of feminine sexuality and its bears.

 *Images: Freaky Friday (details), 2012-13, digital photographs, children’s dresses and judys.


 i Rodgers, Mary. Freaky Friday. New York: HarperTrophy 1972.
 ii Hamlyn, Anne. “Freud, Fabric, Fetish,” in Textile, 1.1 (2003): 9-27.
 iii Brian Massumi in Jill Bennett, “On the Subject of Trauma,” in Emphatic Vision: Affect, Trauma, Contemporary Art. (Stanford CA: Stanford University Press, 2005): 11.
 iv Caruth, Cathy. “Introduction: The Wound and the Voice,” in Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History. (Baltimore MD & London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996): 3.


 Matthew Ryan Smith, Ph.D., is a writer, independent curator and educator based in Toronto, ON. His writings have been featured in several Canadian and international publications including C Magazine, ArtUS, FUSE, and Magenta as well as numerous exhibition catalogues (most recently Itamar Jobani’s People of the 21st Century). Matthew has forthcoming publications in the Canadian Journal of Native Studies and TOPIA: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Titillate opening March 4 at Gallery 1313 (Toronto)

New Fibre Works by Heather Saunders
March 3 to 14, 2010
Reception March 4, 7 to 9 pm
Gallery 1313, 1313 Queen St. W., Toronto

Bleaching out all the Kevins
by Christopher Régimbal

She wrote his name in marker in all her bras and underwear and mum found them and bleached out all the Kevins.

- The Virgin Suicides, 1999

Over the past decade, New York-based Canadian fibre artist Heather Saunders has developed a practice based on examining how sensory queues such as texture, colour, and pattern in female fashion subtly, and sometimes overtly, reinforce sex and gender norms in girls and women. In the past, Saunders has refashioned formal wear for girls, lingerie, and wedding dresses to tease out new meaning from these ideological and ceremonial items of female clothing. Her latest exhibition Titillate at Gallery 1313 in Toronto mashes up cupcake imagery and women’s underwear to explore the function of both cuteness and youthfulness in the sexualization of women. Although this exhibition appears at first to be a playful look at a widespread sexual kink, it is also a cautionary exploration of the limits that define sexual behaviour.

The lingerie industry is a world-wide empire that thrives on reinforcing definitions of sexiness and desire in men and women, playing to their fantasies and creating sexual roles for each to inhabit. These roles are illustrated by John Cusack’s character Rob Gordon in the film adaptation of High Fidelity when he rants, “I used to dream I’d be surrounded by exotic, women’s underwear forever and ever. Now I know they just save their best pairs for the nights they know they’re going to sleep with somebody.” Titillate investigates how definitions of sexiness and desire create the conditions that dictate not only how women see themselves but how they see themselves being seen by men. My position as a male writer offers me a perspective to discuss Saunders’ work from the other side of the gendering gaze.

Saunders’ 2006 exhibition Please Touch at the W.K.P. Kennedy Gallery in North Bay consisted of more than twenty cocoon shaped bundles sewn from nighties, bras, women’s underwear, and baby clothing. Even with their otherworldly cocoon shapes, Saunders was able to draw out an unmistakable femininity through her careful choice of materials, textures, forms, and colours. The sculptures made a clear reference to infancy and inevitably induced an “aw, how cute” reaction in many viewers. At the same time, they established a connection between the outfits worn by adult women to sexually entice their partners and the gowns worn by infant girls to symbolize their purity. Her 2008 exhibition When I Was Just a Little Girl, Que Sera Sera? at Gallery 1313 added the element of text to her cocoon sculptures by refashioning baby clothing with captions such as “I’m a baby doll,” and “Mon Ange.” Please Touch and When I Was Just a Little Girl, Que Sera Sera? revealed the relationship between the fetishization of cuteness, its related naughtiness, and the erotic infantilization of women, by presenting it as a process that begins in the very first minutes of life for young girls.

returns to the territory that Saunders explored in these two exhibitions, only in this new show, the thread that binds the work together is cupcake imagery. The popularity of cupcakes has exploded in recent years, triggering a proliferation of cupcake boutiques, cookbooks, websites, and clothing. Consider a collection of twenty-five pastel outfits for baby girls that the artist has collected and is displaying in the exhibition. All of them incorporate images of cupcakes, some with seemingly benign captions such as “sweet treat” and “so sweet,” and others with downright creepy captions such as “grandpa’s little cupcake” and “daddy thinks I’m sweeter than sugar”. Along with the collection of baby outfits in Titillate, a twenty-sixth item of clothing recasts the assemblage in a new light: a pink, adult-sized t-shirt that reads “I [cupcake] NY.” Exhibited together, the cupcake outfits trace a gendering path that takes its first steps in infancy and follows countless girls through their lives to adulthood. Worn by adults, the cupcake images that represent the cuteness of baby girls take on an erotic tone, one that is only hinted at in this first example but becomes more evident throughout the exhibition.

Saunders further explores the erotic connotations of cupcakes in Girls I Went to High School With (2010), a set of five embroideries that are adapted from stock photographs of young women suggestively licking and eating the frosted treats. Fair-skinned and youthful women gesture playfully with cupcakes in the source material for the embroideries. All five models in Girls I Went to High School With look adolescent and the cupcakes that they are gesturing with serve only to make them appear younger and more playful. One of the models is wearing a heart shaped tiara and mauve eye makeup and licks her cupcake icing with her mouth wide open while another throws her head back in a playful laughter. The cupcakes on children’s clothing that represent the cuteness of baby girls become phallic stand-ins in a simulation of oral sex. By embroidering the mass-culture images in pink with sparkled thread and pastel colours, effectively turning the source images into a form similar to the sweet treat-type baby clothing, Saunders highlights the absurd imagery of this common advertising trope.

The relationship between the aesthetics of cupcakes, sexuality, and age is further complicated in A-Cup Cakes and D-Cup Cakes (both 2010). The twelve smaller A-Cup Cakes are sewn from pale yellow, blue, pink, mint, mauve, and white underwear, a colour pallet that mimics not only popular cupcake icing flavours but cute baby clothing included in this exhibition as well. The two larger D-Cup Cakes are sewn from lingerie and are topped by a red baby bottle nipple and a red sequin pasty in the stead of the traditional cherry. The floral imagery found in the lace of the underwear and the lingerie lends its design surprisingly well to the icing patterns in these two pieces and is also repeated in the floral tracery pattern on the base of the cake stands that are used to display them. The visual connection between underwear and lingerie patterning and cupcake baking and presentation materials is cleverly made in another work, Ode to Facebook (2010), seven embroidered texts on satin backgrounds that read such things as “chocolate,” “hot pink,” “classic white,” and “pink with polka dots.” These descriptions could easily be drawn from a cupcake decorating cookbook, but they were actually taken from a viral Facebook campaign earlier this year that encouraged women to disclose the colour of their bras in their status updates. The back-story only becomes evident in the last embroidery, which reads “have gone from black to none girls!”, actually lifted from the status of a girl that Saunders went to high school with.

The two themes that Saunders simultaneously develops through this exhibition find their common genesis in the oldest sculpture in the exhibition, Sugar & Spice (2009), a D-sized chocolate coloured bra in the shape of two cherry-topped cupcakes fashioned out of fragments of pale pink lingerie and baby dresses. These two themes are the dual function of cupcakes as children’s desserts and sexual props and the mimicry of baby clothes in erotic lingerie. The act of licking cupcakes in mock fellatio is reversed in Sugar & Spice, as the cupcakes become a sexual toy that prompts the male to lick his partner’s breasts like icing. Although the proposition of bringing a giant cupcake bra into the bedroom seems farcical, is it really that much more farcical than the absurdity of erotically emulating the child-like behaviour of licking icing off of the top of a cupcake? Sugar & Spice reasserts the line between girl and woman, playfulness and fetishization, and Martha Stewart propriety and “Girls Gone Wild” obscenity, which have become strangely and sometimes dangerously blurred in contemporary society.

Although a sexualization of cupcake cuteness seems on the surface to be harmless, taken to its extreme of pornographic depictions of “Barely Legal” women in pink panties, pigtails, and cotton socks, it can in instances lead to the abuse and humiliation of young women. The vast majority of the time, the mangling of Magnolia Bakery cuteness with Victoria Secret sexiness is just another in a series of strange things that happens in the bedrooms of the world. By approaching her subject with a certain amount of humour, Saunders’ cupcake bra sculptures and embroideries take the piss out of the whole thing.

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