Modernisms, Inside & Out


Modernisms, Inside & Out

The 4th conference of the Canadian Women Artists History Initiative

Toronto, 15 – 17 October 2020

A collaboration between Concordia University, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the McMichael Canadian Art Collection & Ryerson University’s Modern Literature and Culture Research Centre.

In 2020 the McMichael Canadian Art Collection will launch Uninvited, a major exhibition on women and art in the 1920s and 30s, and the Art Gallery of Ontario will highlight work by female artists in the decades before the First World War. Together, the exhibitions offer an important opportunity to reassess women’s visual and material engagements with the modern as a cultural force in Canada. The social changes effected by modernization brought significant advances for many women:  full legal personhood, new careers, the vote, and increasing opportunities for public and artistic leadership. For others, however, modernity brought exclusion and repression. As racialized rhetoric intensified, immigration policy tightened and settlers sought to eliminate Indigenous cultural expression or confine it to the past. Economic transformation endangered pre-industrial ways of life and their attendant cultural forms, but also stimulated new kinds of artistic production.

How did the visual and material cultures of Canadian women position them inside and out of the modern? And how does the art that women made turn modernism itself inside-out?

A rich history of scholarly investigation exists to support this inquiry. In the 1980s and 90s, feminist scholars of European and American art critiqued modernism and the cultural apparatus that supported it, arguing that women had effectively been constituted as modernism’s excluded other. Since then, investigations of anti-modernism as a cultural force in Canada have called attention to the political, linguistic, and economic tensions that led many to search for alternatives. Most recently, studies of multiple modernities and global modernisms have asked us to rethink the boundaries and priorities of a field of study too-long defined by Euro-American exemplars. What new insights emerge when we bring the focalizing lens of Canadian women’s experiences to these discussions? 

The 4th conference of the Canadian Women Artists History Initiative welcomes papers that respond to this question across all forms of material and visual culture. Case studies and broader analyses are welcome, as are new methodologies for studying un(der)explored Canadian women artists inside and outside of Canada. Modern formations cross time, geographies, cultures, and media; we invite your engagement with current debates that help us to better understand this diversity.

Deadline for submissions: 15 January 2020. Please email a working title, a 150-word abstract and a 2-page cv to Graduate students should also forward a letter of support from their supervisor. Selections will be made by 30 March 2020. Any inquiries may be directed to