Women Behind the Canvas

New Mag to Add a Dash of Feminist Art to ConU

Yiara magazine’s logo features a face in profile. The profile has been used for centuries to render idealized beauty—the faces of the wealthy and the powerful, the influential and the admired.

But here, the Victorian silhouette in the logo is used in a non-traditional sense to display the withered outline of an elderly woman—a stab at the kind of ideal female beauty depicted throughout the history of art.

After being disappointed by what they saw as an underrepresentation of women in their art history courses, six Concordia students have decided to do something to fill that void.

So, Yiara was formed.

“We started realizing that in our art history classes we weren’t talking very much about women in classes that maybe we should have been, like in decorative arts, which is something usually associated with woman—and there was not one woman mentioned,” said Assistant Editor Tess Juan-Gaillot.

“I don’t think it has anything to do with the bias of the teachers, because when they talk about it, they know quite a lot about it, but I think it’s more the curriculum that they have to make it very small, and I don’t think it should be expanding as much as it should be.”

The women started a project that may seem unconventional in a world where print media is on the decline, and budgets for student-run projects are notoriously low.

The magazine, currently funded through the Fine Arts Student Alliance, is set for release on March 8—International Women’s Day.

Although the university has a variety of student publications printed yearly, monthly, and weekly, Juan-Gaillot said that they hope Yiara will become a place for a certain type of writing and subject matter not yet represented within the school.

“So something like a mix of the Concordia Undergraduate Journal of Art History, it’s very professional-looking and academic, all art history essays pretty much. So we wanted to kind of mix that professionalism with something a little more like Interfold which has just visuals pretty much,” she said.

“We’re trying to find a middle ground, while bringing our own to it—which involves being very open, but having a feminist centre.”

As for what to expect for what exactly will fill the pages, Juan-Gaillot, along with Editor-in-Chief Raissa Paes and four other executive members will choose from submissions of poetry, academic writing and visual art.

“We’re looking for a few longer academic essays, usually in art history, but if it’s not in art history and it talks about women in art, then we’re fine with that—it just has to be of a pretty high calibre.”

Marketing themselves as a feminist magazine dedicated to the publication of both contemporary women artists and their influence throughout history, Juan-Gaillot was surprised by the sometimes negative feedback they received from fellow students.

“We’ve actually gotten a lot of negative feedback, from students walking by, asking what I’m putting up and things like that, they just don’t understand it, and in a very negative way, I mean,” she said. “They’ll say things like, ‘Why would you call it feminist? I feel like that excludes so many things.’”

Juan-Gaillot said that their mandate is quite the opposite of exclusive. They’re looking to keep their content as diverse and inclusive as possible, and are looking forward to seeing the different definitions of feminism that come out of the submissions.

“We’re trying to keep it as open as possible. I come from a place where people really view the word feminist in a very, very, very negative way—and I’m very sensitive to that,” said Juan-Gaillot.

“Coming to call myself feminist, or to call my work feminist, is a really big deal to me.”

As an official club of FASA, Yiara received a grant of $1,000; the magazine recently received special project funding from the Concordia Council on Student Life and is waiting to hear back from the Concordia Student Union about another potential grant.

The editorial team is currently planning to get as many copies printed as possible by early March, and then distribute them around Concordia campus and the surrounding student-heavy areas.

“We’re also open to outside of Concordia—which is a big deal, because a lot of the things here, magazines at Concordia are, I mean, since they receive funding from places like FASA, they try to keep it within the school,” said Juan-Gaillot of their open submissions policy, meaning that as long as you are a student you can submit work in either French or English.

“We’re open to UQAM, McGill —anyone who is a student technically, so we can keep it student-based. As long as you count as a student then that’s pretty much the only requirement.”

As for specific of content, Juan-Gaillot insisted that it stay simple.

“As long as you talk about women, in some shape or form, and there’s some sort of critical element to it, then you’re fine and that’s kind of what we’re open to, and see what we get—then judge everything on that.”