Artist-activist headlines Visual Arts Speakers Series

York alumna Allyson Mitchell (BA ’95, MA ’98), one of Toronto’s most noted lesbian-activist artists, will headline the Department of Visual Arts’ Artist Speakers Series today, 12:30 to 2pm, in room 334 of the Joan & Martin Goldfarb Centre for Fine Arts.

ShebacaA visual and performance artist, video and film maker, installation artist and writer, Mitchell is widely known for transforming the definition of art and discourse on the body, sexuality and gender.

Right: “Shebaca, 2005” by Allyson Mitchell

Coordinated by visual arts Professor Nell Tenhaaf of York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, this midday lecture series brings leading artists to campus to speak about their work. Their illustrated presentations create a “contact zone” for interaction with the artists and their artwork, while sparking discussion. All of the artists featured in the series have a reputation for thinking “outside the box”, providing a good opportunity to take in fresh perspectives on particular artistic works, styles or movements.

fluffInfluenced by soft-porn sources such as Playboy cartoons and centrefolds, Mitchell’s artwork is about womankind. Observed through Mitchell’s own lesbian-activist lens and reheated in the oven of feminist theory, she investigates female power and the thwarting of it.

Left: Image from The Fluff Stands Alone (2004) by Allyson Mitchell

An active member of Toronto’s cultural community, Mitchell has numerous solo and group exhibitions to her credit. A visit to her new exhibition, Lady Sasquatch, currently at Paul Petro Contemporary Art in Toronto, is the “perfect consciousness-raising-du-jour for the woman about town, a show that celebrates the she-beast in all of us with a suite of hand-stitched, fun-fur wall pieces and freestanding sculptures,” wrote Sarah Milroy in The Globe and Mail on Sept. 23. Mitchell’s works remain on view at Paul Petro until Oct. 8. For more information, visit the Paul Petro Gallery Web site.

Mitchell’s films and videos have been screened at lesbian and gay film festivals worldwide, including in San Francisco, Milan and Tokyo and she has been appearing in performances at Toronto’s Buddies in Bad Time Theatre since 1998. She is also the author of many books and articles and co-editor of Turbo Chicks, a book that she refers to as “third-wave feminist writing.”

Currently a doctoral candidate in women’s studies in York’s Faculty of Graduate Studies, Mitchell received both an Honours BA in English and Women’s Studies and an MA in women’s wtudies at York.

Mitchell’s talk will take place from 12:30 to 2pm. The event includes a post-lecture reception where the public is invited to meet and chat with the artist in an informal atmosphere. Admission is free.

For more information, call ext. 55187 or e-mail

This article was submitted to YFile by Mary-Lou Schagena in the Faculty of Fine Arts.