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(b. 1939 Boston, MA; lives in Saskatoon, SK)
oil on canvas
49.5 x 39.5 cm
Mount Saint Vincent University Collection
Susanne MacKay’s paintings are empathetic and self-exploratory, probing into the lives of particular women, and in turn, into her own identity. MacKay says, The main thrust of my inquiries as an artist is integrated with what I am learning and experiencing as a woman.
In this portrait, a woman gazes with squinted eyes into the distance, her grey hair moving gently about her face, and her weathered skin depicted in meticulous detail. The highly naturalistic painting of Artemis Kehoe, a resident of Rocky Bay, Cape Breton, demonstrates MacKay’s strategy of centering closely on the head, leaving the background nebulous and out-of-focus. There are strong photographic qualities in her work, such as the fleeting expression, harsh light and sharp detail, as if lit by a flash. The painting speaks to representations of women, and of self, in a world that continues to devalue the aging, strong woman, in favour of an over-simplified, and under-aged normative beauty. By rendering the head in such a monumental fashion, the artist suggests that Herself stands for the strength and determination of Maritime women in general. The individual likeness of Artemis Kehoe has been transformed into an emblem.
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