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Home > Press Room > Article

26 March 2007

Two new exhibitions explore the Second World War's far-reaching impact on women and families

Ottawa, March 26, 2007 – In May 2007, the Canadian War Museum will open two new exhibitions of Canadian contemporary art inspired by the moving stories of women whose lives were forever marked by the upheaval of the Second World War. Through the works of Calgary artist Bev Tosh, in War Brides: Portraits of an Era, and of a London, Ontario, artist Johnnene Maddison, in the exhibition Stitches in Time, visitors will discover the stories of women during a time of total war. Tosh's paintings and multimedia installations and Maddison's quilted fabric artworks are sensitive portrayals of the personal experiences of dozens of Canadian women during and after the war.

More than 44,000 British and European women came to Canada as the wives of Canadian service personnel at the end of the Second World War, accompanied by 21,000 children from these marriages. The story of her war bride mother inspired artist Bev Tosh to paint a striking portrait, which is one of the key works in the War Brides exhibition. That first portrait led Tosh on an odyssey to meet, interview or correspond with nearly one thousand war brides. The resulting exhibition, War Brides, contains six major groupings of paintings and multimedia installations based on the war brides' stories of romance, adventure, and personal journeys. Seventy-five nearly life-sized portraits form two installations called "bride ships" — referring to the 60 vessels that transported the women from Britain, mainly, but also from Holland, Italy, Belgium and France. Incorporating photographs, projections, parachutes, shoes, hatpins, and other materials, the works portray these women as they took a leap of faith in beginning their journey to Canada.

Artist Johnnene Maddison was also inspired by the stories of her mother who worked at a Ford Motor Company plant during the Second World War. The exhibition Stitches in Time features 15 quilted artworks that piece together the stories of dozens of women interviewed by Maddison about their wartime work in factories and on farms. Maddison has created richly coloured, intricate works that combine vintage textiles, photo transfers, memorabilia, beading and embroidery and pay tribute to the networks of women who kept the homefront together. They also reflect the complex reactions of women as their roles changed in response to the departure of so many men to fight the war in Europe. The stories of Canadian women war workers behind Maddison's intriguing textile art will be a discovery for many visitors.

"Art can be a powerful way of looking at history and is a significant part of our collections and exhibitions," said Joe Geurts, Director and CEO of the War Museum. "These exhibitions reveal some very personal dimensions of the Second World War as it affected those at home."

War Brides: Portraits of an Era is an exhibition organized by the Canadian War Museum in collaboration with Bev Tosh. It will be presented in the Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae Gallery. Many of the works in War Brides have appeared in a different configuration under the title One Way Passage in Calgary, Saskatoon, Kelowna, Halifax and St. John's.

The works displayed in Stitches in Time were included in an exhibition called Over Here: Women, Work and WWII, which was shown at galleries in London, Chatham and Sarnia, Ontario.

Both exhibitions will be open to the public from 12 May 2007 until 6 January 2008 at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.

Several special activities and public programs for families and people of all ages have been planned for the exhibitions' opening weekend, May 12 and 13, 2007 (Mother's Day) at the War Museum in Ottawa. The Museum will hold an Official Welcome to war brides on Mother's Day starting at 2 p.m. Admission is free on Sunday May 13, 2007 at the Canadian War Museum and the Canadian Museum of Civilization in celebration of Museums Day. Please note that the Canadian Tulip Festival will be underway in the nation's capital from May 4 to 21, 2007.

Information (media):

Christina Selin
Manager, Communications
Canadian War Museum
Telephone: 819 776-8607

Pierre Leduc
Media Relations Officer
Canadian War Museum
Telephone: 819 776-8608

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