Phyllis Greene’s The Boob Tree in the gallery, 1975. University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections, Winnipeg Art Gallery Fonds.
Two very different exhibitions open at the Gallery, both marking International Women’s Year: Images of Women and Woman as Viewer. The latter represents the first feminist exhibition held in a major Canadian public art gallery.
Images of Women includes 75 works of art by Canadian male and female artists depicting women, and is organized by the WAG’s Women’s Committee. According to its catalogue, the exhibition intends to “acknowledge the achievement of Canadian women by drawing attention to their changing roles in society through the past 200 years.” Opening almost two weeks later at the WAG, Woman as Viewer includes over 50 works by contemporary Canadian and American female artists, including Irene Whittome, Judy Chicago, Sylvia Sleigh (d. 2010), and Alice Neel (d. 1984). This juried exhibition is organized by the Winnipeg-based Committee for Women Artists, headed by writer and activist Marian Francis Yeo (d. 2011) and artist Sharon Zenith Corne, which had formed in protest to the Images of Women exhibition. Yeo and Corne held that the Images of Women exhibition, because of its focus on women as artistic subjects, would simply “enforce stereotypes from which women are attempting to break away.” Together, the two exhibitions receive national attention and court controversy. The original printer for the Woman as Viewer catalogue refuses to complete the job, complaining that Sylvia Sleigh’s male nude was pornographic. Exhibition posters of Phyllis Greene’s The Boob Tree, pictured here, are so popular they are stolen.