The Airdrie Public Library (APL) is partnering with local artist Veronica Funk to display her latest body of work titled ‘Extraordinary Women’ – a series of paintings that highlight the contributions of contemporary Canadian women.
The temporary exhibit will be on display at the library from mid-November to January 2023.
According to Funk, considering another difficult year in the world following the COVID-19 pandemic, she wanted to surround herself with the portraits and words of women who have been an inspiration to her.
“The second year of the pandemic, it was really nice to have these inspiring women on my wall and even though I may not have agreed with everything about them, there was something about them,” Funk said. “They're Canadian women – they did something important.”
Funk created the project last year, painting a portrait with acrylic paints on a seven-by-14-inch canvas for each of the 52 weeks of the year. She then added a few more portraits to make it an even 60, including a quote from each woman that inspired her alongside each one of them.
The artist said she is inspired by street art and often employs layering techniques to show greater depth in her work.
“I try to incorporate colours or patterns or even symbols into the background that might reflect that person,” Funk explained.
“These pieces are influenced by layers of colour and pattern found in street art,” Funk said of her unique artistry. “These patterns are a representation of the layers of experience and history of each woman.”
The internationally acclaimed artist also created a companion book for the exhibit so people can look through each of the canvases and read about the subjects’ inspiring journeys.
“There were so many of these incredible women that, for me, when things just didn’t seem to be getting better, it was so nice to focus on these women,” Funk said of her inspiration.
“So many of them went through really difficult things themselves, but have come out on the other side.”
Some of the portrait subjects are well-known, while others are less established. But even for the more famous subjects, Funk said she wanted to delve into the aspects of these women’s lives that may not necessarily be familiar to the general public.
Portrait subjects include Clara Hughes, a summer and winter Olympic athlete and cyclist who is also a mental health awareness advocate, and Measha Brüggergosman, a soprano vocalist based in Ontario who is also a mental health advocate and feminist.
“These women come from fields as diverse as politics, music, sports, and theatre. [They] remind me of the progress of feminism and the trail-blazers who have brought the women’s rights movement where it is today,” Funk said.
According to the artist, the Extraordinary Women initiative continued the same theme from her prior three projects, which all featured portraits of women. The showcases were titled Heroes, Nasty Women, and The Grandmothers.
“Though we still have so far to go for equal rights, treatment, and respect of women, I often think of how far we have come,” said Funk.
Funk is currently working on another female-centric art project called Women’s Work, highlighting those who served Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“During this time, even though I worked at home, I still felt supported by other women through our virtual world. The focus of this work is on gratitude for the women who have raised the bar for all of us,” she said.
According to Funk, more women lost jobs than men during the pandemic, and when she delved into it deeper, she discovered women still do not have equal pay or workplace opportunities as men.
“It’s just really neat to see some of these women go back to the ‘60s and ‘70s – things they had to overcome to become CEOs of companies, so I can’t believe in this era we still have the same issues that we’re dealing with,” she said.
“The pandemic was so hard for so many people, but women took the brunt of a lot of things – child care, education, health care for family members who weren’t well, so we’re lucky to have these incredible women that just keep working.”
She said she is most excited to be able to share her work again publicly at Airdrie Public Library, where she previously served as arts and culture coordinator.
“It is so wonderful to be able to share my work again, especially locally,” Funk said of the APL exhibit. “I have a soft spot for our public library, and I am so honoured to be able to exhibit there.”
The exhibit will be showcased from mid-November until January 2023. To view the images or for more information, please visit veronicafunk.com/extraordinary-women.html