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rouse

december 2013 issue 1

an artistic magazine to inspire truly passionate women

The show must go on: How cover girl Ashley Gibson found sweetness through tragedy

‘HustleGRL’: young artist of the month pg. 40

Before I die...

Exclusive: pg. 46

An illustrated story by Grace An


rouse issue 1 dec 2013 editors kristin eliason alexandra gater vida korhani associate editor lindy oughtred

rouse online rousemagcanada.wordpress.com rouse twitter @rousemagcanada


painting by Ilene Sova.


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The muse of madness

Toronto creations inspired by mental health

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The colour of art

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The message on the streets

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Illustrating the female perspective

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Exclusive: What a waste of love

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Seeking to see, and not be seen

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Without a face

How these women use mixed media to explore concepts of race

Artists take over the concrete

How three women prove pictures are worth a thousand words A illustrated story by Grace An

Female artists working to reclaim their sexuality How dolls give victims a voice

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The show must go on

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Young artist of the month

How one woman found sweetness through tragedy Graphic designer/photographer Karla Moy

literature 44

Where she sits in the literary world

On the presence of sexism in the literary community

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Editorial

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What’s inspiring you?

How I empowered youth through art This month’s artists tell you what’s inspiring them right now

46 Before I die I want to...

We asked our artists what they would do before they died

table of contents

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hi from the editors of rouse There are countless women of all ages who use art on a daily basis to create change. They are inspiring, and deserve to be recognized. That is what rouse is about. As women, we feel immensely empowered by all of the artists in this month’s issue. They are all working to comment on issues that affect women by using the universal language of art- issues that are often ignored, or take a lot of courage to discuss. For that, we commend and thank the women who shared their stories about race, mental health, sexuality and violence. From comics to chalk, the art forms being used to break the barriers that many women face today are very diverse. As a result, the pages of rouse are an eclectic mix of creative and impactful artistic genres. We hope you, our reader, feel as liberated and inspired as we have putting this magazine together. - Alexandra, Kristin and Vida


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Alexandra Gater

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Residents at Touchstone Youth Centre displayed their images in the “your life, OUR LIFE” show in Sept 2012.

how I saw art empower youth In the summer of 2012, I was part of a summer outreach team for HEYY (Hearing Every Youth Through Youth) helpline. We traveled to different summer camps and shelters to hold workshops for youth. Early in the summer we held a workshop at Touchstone Youth Centre, a shelter that was located north of Pape and Danforth. Our workshop on “community” quickly turned into a talking circle. Many of the youth expressed that they did not feel a part of their community; they said they felt labelled with stereotypes and misunderstood. They wanted the community to see they were no different than everyone else. I decided to share my love of photography with whichever youth at Touchstone were interested. I thought a photography show would engage the community and make them listen to a group that is often left unheard. The youth agreed. The process of this project was immensely positive. We distributed disposable cameras to about 12 youth and gave

them a chance to take photos of whatever they chose. They engaged in discussion and debate with one another about the theme of the show. They felt the project would be a good opportunity to abolish the many stereotypes that come with being a homeless youth. As a result, they decided to document their everyday lives and their photographs explore what it means to be homeless. The final photographs the youth produced were beautiful, emotional, thoughtful, creative and inspired me beyond belief. The exhibit which the youth titled “your life, OUR LIFE” was held on Sept 14 2012 at Beit Zatoun Gallery in Toronto. I watched as art empowered a group of youth through freedom of expression. I changed my outlook on my community and learned things about life not taught in textbooks. This experience solidified my belief that it is possible to create change no matter how big or small. Art really can conquer all. -Alexandra Gater


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What’s inspiring you? We asked artists featured in this month’s issue what is inspiring them.

“Intersectionality within the mixed-race and Afro-Canadian communities.” -Rema Tavares

“New York City. My friends who are creating work. Floral crowns and sparkles.” -Ashley Gibson

“Right now I’m inspired by strong, empowered, unique-looking women.” -Jordan Clarke


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“Poised” by Jordan Clarke. Oil on canvas, 36”x 60” 2012.

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Alexandra Gater

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Audience members wait for Delaney Ruston’s Hidden Pictures: A Personal Journey into Global Mental Health during the 2013 Rendezvous with Madnes


Madness Film Festival.

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The muse of

madness Toronto creations inspired by mental health

Lisa Brown never thought her grandmother was crazy. While she saw the tissue in the window used to keep bugs out and knew about her trips to the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre, Brown says she never felt anything but safe and unconditionally loved by her mother’s mother. “She certainly had challenges, but I didn’t think of her in the way that other people thought about her,” Brown said. “She’s been one of the reasons that I’ve sought to change the way that people might think about people like my grandmother, because it’s not right.” Brown is the founder and artistic/executive director for Workman Arts, an organization that aims to provide a supportive environment to individuals with mental health and addiction issues by giving them the tools they need to express themselves creatively. Since its inception in 1987, Workman Arts has used art as a way of encouraging personal growth in its members and to break the stigma and stereotype of mental health for its audiences. Brown began her career as a night nurse at the Queen Street Mental Health Centre (now the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health). She says she remembers watching patients perform in the talent shows she ran there on Friday nights. “I was pretty inspired by them, so I thought about using theatre as an artistic discipline to have all of these artists participate,” Brown said.

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8 Using the patients’ singing, painting and acting skills, Workman Arts created and produced its first play, ‘Home for Christmas’, in 1988, along with actors from the community. It took place at the Joseph Workman Theatre, and explored what it felt like to be homeless on Christmas Eve. Ever since, the members of Workman Arts have been busy. With over 230 member artists, the program is multidisciplinary, working in film, theatre, music, visual and literary arts.

Ruston says she believes the use of art to explore personal issues is an effective way for both the filmmaker and the audience to relate, because it creates a parallel between the two. “I think that the most personal films are the most universal and that when personal films touch at our emotions, whether you’re in a village of India or here in Toronto, we’ve experienced shame, fear, love,” she said, “and that’s where compassion is born, from that connection.”

Chris Mitchell is the visual arts manager at WorkWorkman Arts has presented plays across the man Arts. She agrees with Ruston, saying that in country and curated multiple art exhibitions in Topresenting topics through art, artists create a level ronto each year. Mad Couture Catwalk, a runway of understanding for their audiences that may not presentation of wearable art, was shown at the otherwise be achieved Art Gallery of Ontario academically. this year and as a part of Fashion Arts Toronto “I think (art) creates a Week. The first Madness way to engage with the and Arts World Festitopic that is less threatval, presented by Workening to people, less inman Arts, took place in timidating,” Mitchell said. 2003 at Toronto’s Har“(It) can break down bourfront. The festival barriers of prejudice or brought different artists stigma and have people of different disciplines relate on a very human from all over the world to level to those issues.” explore issues of mental health using their talents. Mitchell also says the The festival was then - Lisa Brown, founder of Workman Arts production of art can be adapted for its second therapeutic for the artand third run in Germany ists themselves. (2006) and the Netherlands (2010). “For the artists that are creating that kind of work, they’re often working through their own feelings The organization also presents an annual film and experiences through the creation of their artfestival, Rendezvous with Madness, now in its 21st work; it can be very cathartic for some of them,” year. The six- to nine-day event screens short and she said. feature-length films that explore different topics in the realm of mental health and addiction. Brown agrees, and adds one of the most important things that she’s learned throughout her years Delaney Ruston is the director for the film ‘Hidden with Workman Arts is to focus on people’s abilities, Pictures: A Personal Journey into Global Mental rather than their perceived disabilities. Health’. Her documentary showed on Nov. 13 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. “Give people the right conditions to be able to create and they’ll thrive and they’ll surpass your origiRuston first participated in the festival in 2004, nal ideas,” Brown said. “Give people the tools and when she screened her film ‘Unlisted: A Story of look at people’s abilities and strengths. Don’t try Schizophrenia’, a documentary that centred on to fix what’s wrong. At least in our company, that’s her journey to reconcile with her estranged father, what we’re about.” a paranoid schizophrenic, with whom she had cut - Kristin Eliason off contact for years.

‘ Look at people’s abilities and strengths. Don’t


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The 3MW Collective uses art to open dialogue about under-covered topics. From left; Jordan Clarke, Rema Tavares and Ilene Sova.

The colour of art How these Toronto women use mixed media to explore concepts of race Ilene Sova remembers coming home from school one day and feeling speechless as bullies cornered her on the bus, demanding she explain her features. “The big thing was my lips,” said Sova, now 38. “‘Why are your lips so big?’ ‘Why are your eyes so big?’ ‘Why is your skin so dark?’ That was the constant bullying. I remember bawling because I thought my face was deformed because my lips were too big.” Now a contemporary artist living in Toronto, Sova’s experiences growing up mixed-race in a small town led her to become passionate about exploring issues of race. She, along with Rema Tavares, 30, and Jordan Clarke, 29, have formed the 3MW (3 Mixed Women) Collective. Their art, a mixture of portraiture, painting and photography, explores what it means to be a mixed-race woman in the modern world. This year at Nuit Blanche, Clarke, Sova and Tavares participated in an exhibition whose objective was to create a discussion about topics not often explored in the media. ‘COMPLEXion’ displayed works looking at different issues surrounding skin colour, such as mixed-race identity and shadeism.

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10 Dr. Miglena Todorova, a professor in media/cultural studies at the University of Toronto, defines shadeism as “racism based on face/body features or shades of skin colour.” She says the lack of discourse in this area is apparent in one of the courses she teaches. In Education and Popular Culture, Todorova, 48, requires her students to produce radio segments on subjects they find are important and under-covered in the mass media. “In over 90 radio programs produced in the class so far,” Todorova said, “the majority of the stories narrate issues of racism, poverty, violence against women, the meaning of being ‘Canadian,’ and other important issues that open our minds to the darker side of Canadian multiculturalism.”

that people didn’t understand how big an issue it was outside of their own ethnic or cultural or racial communities or groups,” she said. “They didn’t understand...how many people it impacted globally, so that was really beautiful.” Tavares, also the founder of the website Mixed in Canada, says that this lack of discussion about shadeism and mixed race can be problematic in many ways. For one, she says it perpetuates an inability to speak openly, which can be extremely isolating. “There’s something very powerful in a negative way about feeling silenced,” Tavares said. “And when you feel like you don’t exist and you feel like you’re alone...(that) is such an isolating and depressing feeling.”

Nayani Thiyagarajah, 25, also participated in ‘COMPLEXion’. Her short, 20-minute documentary, ‘Shadeism’, investigates both where this discrimination comes from and how it affects women of colour.

“Everyone who has the ability to communicate and build a platform for people of their group who can do it, should, because there’s not enough women of colour speaking to their experiences.”

Having spent time in India before completing her last year in Ryerson’s broadcast journalism program in 2010, Thiyagarajah says she was astounded by the number of skin-lightening products she saw advertised in Bombay.

Clarke, Sova, Thiyagarajah and Tavares have chosen art as their platform to explore these issues, and Sova believes exploring difficult topics in this way can be very compelling.

She remembers a conversation she had with her then-three-year-old niece, who said she didn’t feel beautiful because of her dark skin. “That really hit me,” Thiyagarajah said, “and I was like, ‘Oh no, this is now transferring down to the next generation when we never thought that that would happen. We just thought it would fade away.’” “But unless we talk about it and talk about where it comes from and address how we can resist it, then it’s not going to disappear overnight.” The film has been shown in seven countries, including Canada, the United States and India, and Thiyagarajah says she has received positive feedback overall. “Generally, the biggest feedback we’ve received is

“I think it’s an easier way to communicate it through art,” Sova said. “I think we’re blessed in that way...it’s quite an easy vehicle to use and it’s captivating and engaging for people...how quickly you can pick up on the emotional nuances and racism and the feelings very quickly.” Tavares agrees, and says that art can also be effective because it is a softer medium for sensitive subjects. “I think it’s much easier to discuss highly charged issues through art because...every word is so important when you discuss these things,” Tavares said. “Whereas visual art is very interpretative, so you can talk about something that is extremely charged and yet it doesn’t stir the same kind of gut reaction; (art evokes) much more emotions that are experiential.” - Kristin Eliason


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“Blue” by Rema Tavares.


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“Rise” by Jordan Clarke. Oil on canvas, 48” x 60” 2013.

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The message on the streets Artists take over the concrete Jo Lalonde’s first introduction to chalk art was in high school, where a motivational guest speaker managed to transform a group of students’ negative thoughts into an artistic picture. “(The guest speaker) spent 20 minutes turning (those experiences) into a beautiful masterpiece out of chalk and when I saw it, I thought that chalk looked like a really fun material,” Lalonde said, “and I started playing a lot more with it.” Lalonde, 24, also known as Chalkchick, has spent the past seven years as one of the few full-time performing female chalk street artists in Toronto. Throughout her years in high school, she found that while many people gravitated more towards paint, she was drawn towards chalk. “There is something really immediately gratifying with working with chalk,” she said. “You don’t have to wait for it to dry-it’s just bada-bing bada-boom. You have the product that you’re creating... It’s a lot more like dealing with a pencil crayon than dealing with a watercolour painting.”


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Street performing artists, such as Lalonde, dedicate their lives to the community by creating visual interest on the streets of Toronto. Chalk street art has the potential to create a difference, whether it’s by portraying a message or bringing a smile to a person’s face. “I’m just trying to make the streets a bit of a happier place and a place where people feel comfortable bringing their kids and having a sense of community, where they see new and fun things every day,” Lalonde said. David Johnston, 43, also known as Chalkmaster Dave, has mentored many female chalk street artists in Toronto and has been a street performing artist for 20 years. He says the messages an artist conveys through his or her art, in public, are a lot more effective in sharing the message to the community than paintings that are hung in art galleries. “Initially, when you’re sitting in Yonge and Dundas for one week, approximately a million people will walk by,” Johnston said. “That’s hundreds and thousands of people that walk by every week, and if you’ve got a message to put out there through your art, then you’ve got a massive audience. Massive. No gallery in the entire country has a million people go by every week, right? So to reach people is incredible.” Professional street art in Toronto, says Johnston, started in the early 1970s, but the performance of street chalk art is a 500-year-old tradition. According to Kurt Wenner’s ‘The Art and History of Street Painting’ (2011), this form of art first originated in Italy during the 16th century with the Italian madonnari. They were street artists who painted the Madonna (St. Mary) or other religious pictures on pavements using chalk, char-

coal or coloured stones and lived purely on the pocket change tossed at them while performing. Throughout the years, this tradition grew into a worldwide phenomenon. Kathryn Tarver, 33, also known as Concrete Katie, first came into contact with chalk when she met Johnston for an artist assistant position. For three years, she helped and partnered with Johnston in creating chalk street art until almost a year ago, when she decided to create her own art. “While you’re doing your performance, you’re doing it in that instant. Being a chalk artist is different...because the art occurs at the moment with the public, through time; time and space make up art, so these shapes are forming in front of these people.” Tarver describes the creation of her art as a way of interacting with the public. As they watch her perform and then see the final product, they offer her comments, compliments and even criticism, she says, which makes her a better artist. But chalk art is not only for the artist’s passion; it also affects the community. Although many chalk artists draw with the intention of portraying a particular message, all chalk artists portray a hidden message. “The fact is everything, at least from your perspective when you die, goes away, so I think it’s OK throughout life to accept a part of that and with chalk art that’s a perfect way to do it,” Johnston said. “You’re creating something, you watch it grow and finally it starts to pass and it fades away. Kind of like what we do. It’s really kind of cool.”

- Vida Korhani


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Vida Korhani

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Jo Lalonde, 24, creates her chalk art in front of the Eaton Centre.


Sandra Bell-Lundy

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Sandra Bell-Lundy, the creator of Between Friends comic strips, says this is one of her favourite and most memorable cartoons.

Illustrating the female perspective How three women prove pictures are worth a thousand words When Sandra Bell-Lundy, creator of the ‘Between Friends’ comic strip, first introduced children into her series, it was an emotional experience for both her and her readers. “I had problems with infertility, so when I decided that I wanted to bring children into my comic, I didn’t just want my character to suddenly get pregnant,” says Bell-Lundy, 55. “It seemed like a fairytale because of all the problems I’ve been through. So I ended up having my character adopt.” In this specific strip, Susan, one of the main characters, sees Emma, the seven-month-old adopted girl, for the first time being held by a social worker. Susan says, “Hello, Emma” and then tries to get Emma to come into her arms by showing her a musical Big Bird toy. Throughout the strip, Susan slowly becomes more confident because of Emma’s interest in the toy and by the end, Emma is in Susan’s arms. That’s when Susan says, ‘Hello, daughter.’ “Someone wrote to me (the day the strip was released) and she said to me that her daughter asked her that morning ‘Mom, why are you reading the comics and crying?’” Bell-Lundy said.


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visual arts Bell-Lundy, who lives in Welland, Ont., has been creating comics for over 24 years. Her work is syndicated to 175 newspapers, including the ‘Toronto Star’, and her themes cover everything from infertility to domestic abuse, with each strip reflecting a distinct female perspective. She also did some work for the Canadian Cancer Society using characters to promote regular mammograms in the early detection of breast cancer. According to her, comic strips have the unique potential to get an audience’s attention in a way that other formats do not. “When I wrote the domestic abuse story line, somebody wrote me from one of the women’s shelters and said that they thought it was a really good idea to write about it in the newspaper comic because it was a non-traditional venue,” Bell-Lundy said. “It was a good way of spreading the message, because it was not the typical venue for exploring that topic and their point was that perhaps somebody else would see this topic being discussed who had not seen it somewhere else.”

‘Someone wrote to me (the day the strip was released) and she said to me that her daughter asked her that morning ‘Mom, why are you reading the comics and crying?’ -Sandra Bell-Lundy, creator of ‘Between Friends’

Cathy Thorne is a Toronto freelancer who creates single-panel cartoon illustrations. She believes cartoons have such a strong impact because they have an immediate effect on the reader. “It’s the ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ kind of thing,” says Thorne, 47. “So there’s an impact. It’s fast. So that’s why I think political cartoons are also so potent-it’s just immediate. It’s immediate and you get it. They don’t do what an article would do where both sides are represented. Instead it’s fast to the point.” Thorne’s weekly cartoon, ‘Everyday People’, is featured in Good Housekeeping, the Toronto Star, Reader’s Digest and also in Sydney, Australia’s Sunday Telegraph. She has been in the business for 14 years and, in 2010, Reader’s Digest appointed her as one of five cartoonists in Canada to watch. In her comics, she blends humour with everyday problems, which allows people to laugh at themselves while receiving a message.

Sandra Bell-Lundy

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One of Thorne’s favourite illustrations shows a princess lying draped across a pedestal with her head back and legs down, looking distraught. The caption says, “It’s just so lonely up here.” “It illustrates, I think, so well the position we put ourselves in when we decide that we’re better or worse than everyone else,” Thorne said. “And it’s the same whether it’s elitism or snobbism-I don’t think it’s something we don’t experience. I think we all do at some point or another, think ourselves better than the people we’re surrounded by and those positions offer nothing of value to the world or to ourselves.” According to Bell-Lundy, she and Thorne are among the 10 per cent of women from the 225 syndicated cartoon artists in North America in mainstream newspapers.

Grace An, 20, is a cartoon illustrator based in Montreal who recently created a comic strip called Sunshinable. When she first started, her comics were humorous and light-hearted, but as she kept writing she realized the potential and impact the medium can have. As a result, she started to shift toward serious topics. Now An’s work mainly deals with issues specific to women. She believes that having a visual aspect along with the written word in a comic can send an important message in a very subtle way.

Grace An

“There are more men cartoonists than women cartoonists and that’s just because that’s where we are in time,” Thorne said. “Twenty years ago there were even fewer women. It’ll even out, I’m certain. I just don’t know when, but it’ll even out for sure.”

Up-and-coming illustration artist Grace An.

“No one would expect to learn anything or feel very affected by reading comics or cartoons, but by reading them, they could unconsciously be affected by the medium,” An said. “That’s why I like it. Anyone can do it and the medium can easily change people without knowing it.” - Vida Korhani


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turn the page for an exclusive comic from up-and-coming artist Grace An.

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Photo courtesy of Joelle Circé

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“Shut up and be pretty.” Sanguine, charcoal and pastel on paper.

Female artists working to reclaim their sexuality In John Berger’s 1972 book ‘Ways of Seeing’, he states that “men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. Thus she turns herself into an object- and most particularly an object of vision: a sight.” Jean Kilbourne, creator of the ‘Killing Us Softly: Advertising’s Image of Women’ film series, says this idea is reflected in today’s media reality. “As a result, we get a whole lot of objectification,” she said. “Not only by men but also by women, because we’ve learned to objectify ourselves. So little of (popular culture) has anything to do with a woman’s real sexual experience or real pleasure.” A community of women artists in Canada have found art helps them regain their power to see and feel their own sexual desires. They do this by exploring the female body in a raw and truthful way, and by challenging societal views of female sexuality. Joelle Circe, 57, who lives in Quebec, began painting vaginas after undergoing surgery and hormone changes to become a

woman 13 years ago. “When I came back to my art (after transitioning)...I began creating this series of (vagina) paintings,” Circe said. “It was like a mixture of curiosity and claiming this new body of mine.” Petals is one of those pieces in this series. It is a picture of a vulva, the strokes of flesh-coloured paint wispy and soft, making the lips of the vagina comparable to petals of a flower. “‘Petals’ was one of the first vagina paintings that I created,” Circe said. “For me, it was expressing openness, this extroverted reaching out in to others and showing (the vagina’s) full beauty and tenderness in all the beautiful folds. It speaks to everything that I expected to feel as a female. It is a bit stereotypical, I will admit, but also very true.” After transitioning, Circe realized the media did not project the same truths she was sharing in her art. “We are not beautiful as we are. We have to be made pretty,” she said. “Those were big pressures for me- pressures to wear


28 high heels all the time, pressures to be thinner. I would see ads online or on the bus...it was all about changing how we acted so we were made acceptable to men.” Teresa Ascencao, an artist and teacher at Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD), explores these pressures in her media-based work. Through photography, digital imaging and video, she has been commenting on the things women can and cannot do with their bodies in religion and the media. After exploring this theme for over a decade, Ascencao says for her artwork has shifted from creating a political discussion to something more introspective, especially in her current series ‘Text and Tongue,’ supported by the Ontario Arts Council. “The work was born from realizing that all the stuff I had done before has always used other women, and I had never put myself into it,” she said. “I’ve never actually dealt with why I care so much about the work that I do, so ‘Text and Tongue’ is really a physiological underpinning of all the work I have done.” In ‘Text and Tongue’, Ascencao is both the photographer and subject, exploring ideas she has kept in sketchbooks and dream journals for years about sexuality or the body. “The other part of the series is more explicit in terms of directly mimicking advertising language,” Ascencao said, before quoting a piece of the work: “‘Am I prepared to lose a chunk of my identity by tossing away a language that I know is no good for me?’ I allow my body to mimic what is out there and at the same time, the text kind of pushes back against wanting to be received that way.” Kilbourne says we see celebrities mimicking, and then pushing back, against the universal identity media has created for women, all the time. It is a concept, she says, that often gets difficult, and confusing. “The whole huge range of female sexuality and female sexiness that exists in real life is just the tiniest, narrow slice of it that is offered as what it means to

be sexy,” Kilbourne said. “Pop culture only has one way for a woman to be sexy and that is to look like a porn star. And then when women choose that way, they says it’s their authentic choice, but it’s hardly a choice if that’s the only option that there is.” Ascencao says she finds this conflict arises when creating her artwork. “I agree that I am talking about how sexuality should not be controlled and we should express ourselves, but on the other hand I am exhausted by the hypersexualization of the female body in the media,” she said. “I don’t want to say...let’s go and express ourselves explicitly because, of course that would be beautiful, but you do that and the world doesn’t understand it.” Ascencao sees artwork as a connection to the world, and wants hers to be experienced in the way media is replicated in society. “I want the artwork to function in the same way the real world does- in a subversive way, though, because I am trying to unravel the illusions in many of the works that are there,” she said. This is why she chooses to engage viewers in most of her pieces. Her series of 3D animated photographs, ‘Maria’, comments on the suppression of sexuality in Catholicism. In order to see the photographs move, the viewer has to bend up and down, mimicking the act of worship. “Whether it be religion or media, we are being sold something and we are part of this system and sometimes we do not question it, so I want to question those things,” Ascencao said. Circe agrees. “Before the transition, my perception of the female body was outside looking in, whereas today I am looking within,” she said. “My art now brings me here. It brings me to being aware of my body, of other women’s bodies, of the political issues surrounding these - Alexandra Gater things.”


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“Smashing Images.” Painting by Joelle Circé. Oil on canvas.


28 high heels all the time, pressures to be thinner. I would see ads online or on the bus...it was all about changing how we acted so we were made acceptable to men.” Teresa Ascencao, an artist and teacher at Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD), explores these pressures in her media-based work. Through photography, digital imaging and video, she has been commenting on the things women can and cannot do with their bodies in religion and the media. After exploring this theme for over a decade, Ascencao says for her artwork has shifted from creating a political discussion to something more introspective, especially in her current series ‘Text and Tongue,’ supported by the Ontario Arts Council. “The work was born from realizing that all the stuff I had done before has always used other women, and I had never put myself into it,” she said. “I’ve never actually dealt with why I care so much about the work that I do, so ‘Text and Tongue’ is really a physiological underpinning of all the work I have done.” In ‘Text and Tongue’, Ascencao is both the photographer and subject, exploring ideas she has kept in sketchbooks and dream journals for years about sexuality or the body. “The other part of the series is more explicit in terms of directly mimicking advertising language,” Ascencao said, before quoting a piece of the work: “‘Am I prepared to lose a chunk of my identity by tossing away a language that I know is no good for me?’ I allow my body to mimic what is out there and at the same time, the text kind of pushes back against wanting to be received that way.” Kilbourne says we see celebrities mimicking, and then pushing back, against the universal identity media has created for women, all the time. It is a concept, she says, that often gets difficult, and confusing. “The whole huge range of female sexuality and female sexiness that exists in real life is just the tiniest, narrow slice of it that is offered as what it means to

be sexy,” Kilbourne said. “Pop culture only has one way for a woman to be sexy and that is to look like a porn star. And then when women choose that way, they says it’s their authentic choice, but it’s hardly a choice if that’s the only option that there is.” Ascencao says she finds this conflict arises when creating her artwork. “I agree that I am talking about how sexuality should not be controlled and we should express ourselves, but on the other hand I am exhausted by the hypersexualization of the female body in the media,” she said. “I don’t want to say...let’s go and express ourselves explicitly because, of course that would be beautiful, but you do that and the world doesn’t understand it.” Ascencao sees artwork as a connection to the world, and wants hers to be experienced in the way media is replicated in society. “I want the artwork to function in the same way the real world does- in a subversive way, though, because I am trying to unravel the illusions in many of the works that are there,” she said. This is why she chooses to engage viewers in most of her pieces. Her series of 3D animated photographs, ‘Maria’, comments on the suppression of sexuality in Catholicism. In order to see the photographs move, the viewer has to bend up and down, mimicking the act of worship. “Whether it be religion or media, we are being sold something and we are part of this system and sometimes we do not question it, so I want to question those things,” Ascencao said. Circe agrees. “Before the transition, my perception of the female body was outside looking in, whereas today I am looking within,” she said. “My art now brings me here. It brings me to being aware of my body, of other women’s bodies, of the political issues surrounding these - Alexandra Gater things.”


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“Smashing Images.” Painting by Joelle Circé. Oil on canvas.


Photo courtesy of the Native Women’s Association of Canada

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The Faceless Doll exhibit, shown here, represents the 582 aboriginal missing and murdered women and girls in Canada. This exhibit has 11 panels, ea are meant to speak for these voiceless victims in Canadian society.


nels, each featuring 56 faceless dolls that

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Without a face How dolls give victims a voice In July of 1997, at the age of 42, Deborah Sloss was found dead in Toronto. Laura Clarke, Sloss’s daughter, heard the news through her mother’s friends, 30 days after the body was found. “In the police report the first line is, ‘The victim was an aboriginal from northern Ontario, a known crack addict and alcoholic,’” said Clarke, 40, “and her whole police report, if you take out the spaces...is one sheet (of paper).” Although the Toronto Police wrote the case off as an alcohol and drug overdose incident, Clarke believes her mother was murdered. Many of her questions were not answered, she said, and much of the evidence did not fit.

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Photo courtesy of Laura Clarke

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Deborah Sloss (left) sits next to her daughter, Laura Clarke. Sloss died at the age of 42 in 1997.

“When I go the autopsy report...it listed no cause of death. There was nothing toxicological, nothing anatomical,” Clarke said. “We don’t have any answers and my feeling is because of her being native, and she was using drugs and she was an alcoholic, that she didn’t matter...(that) they couldn’t bother to waste the time to find out why she was dead.” The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), based in Ottawa, says the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women and

girls is serious and overlooked. In order to raise awareness, the association approached Alberta artist Gloria Larocque to create a visual impact of the 582 found cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada through art. “The majority (of these cases had) no justice and no closure for the families,” said Michele Audette, 42, president of NWAC. “So the artist wanted to represent the 600 known missing and murdered...as dolls with no faces.”


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visual arts Each doll created for this project is unique, and although they are faceless, they have traditional native clothing, hairstyles and skin tones. All these features are used to break stereotypes about the native culture and show the diversity within the aboriginal community. Throughout her youth, Larocque was a human rights activist for aboriginal women and girls, but she realized politics and speeches were not catching the public’s attention. That’s when she gathered the courage to choose a different path. “I knew how to do one thing, which is sew,” said Larocque, 45. “And if I went on the foundation that these women’s stories wanted to be told, it was like being called...it was a moment of transformation for me to take a very simple craft into an art form that I did not consider art work.”

girls are neglected by society, which makes them invisible. When the ‘Faceless Doll Project’ started in 2012, Larocque created simplified 2-D patterns so each of the 600 faceless dolls could be put together in workshops by aboriginal and non-aboriginal families across Canada. Now, all the dolls are attached to large green panels, creating an exhibit whose massive size emphasizes the impact of the situation. “It’s amazing how the project helped us to open the eyes and hearts of many people who didn’t know at all about this reality right here in Canada,” Audette said.

‘These girls that are missing or murdered... don’t have a face until their families put a face on it.’

“To do something politically through the dolls, it became the ‘Faceless Doll Project’...to really hammer in the whole issue of facelessness and that story of being faceless in means of society and vanity.”

The faceless aspect of the dolls came to Larocque when she looked into the history of cornhusk dolls from the east coast native culture. She discovered the dolls were faceless to teach the youth about vanity. The community’s children learned about cohesion, selflessness and other aspects of living in a tight-knit society through their dolls. “I used that (message) in a different way,” Larocque said, “to say these dolls are faceless because of society’s vanity, not the woman’s vanity. (The facelessness) created that anonymity, that anonymous factor that I was really searching for.” According to Larocque, Aboriginal women and

Clarke agrees.

“The project speaks for itself,” she said. “These girls that are missing or murdered...don’t have a face until their families put a face on it. I think without the - Laura Clarke families standing up and doing the (search) on their own, these girls will end up staying faceless dolls because society doesn’t really acknowledge them.” The exhibition is travelling to every workshop in Canada organized by NWAC so that people can glue together their own faceless aboriginal dolls and engage in the issue. Each doll is created with the intention of increasing public awareness. Every time a woman goes missing, a new doll is created. Audette says that needs to keep happening. “We need to (continue the project) and to keep it alive,” she said. “So we don’t say, ‘OK, that was the issue of the year, of the moment, so now let’s jump on another issue.’ We have to keep this alive until we see justice. That’s how I’m driven every day.”

- Vida Korhani

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Ashley Gibson, singer/actor and creator of the Life is Sweet project, poses on the couch in her east Toronto home.


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The show must go on How one woman found sweetness through tragedy Ashley Gibson remembers her mom. She remembers her light-green eyes, her big laugh and her warm heart. She remembers coming home from shopping one day as a teenager, chatting with a friend and her mom in the kitchen. “(I have a memory of my mom) just listening and asking questions and...just being lovely, and cute and fun,” said Gibson, 29. “My mom was very easy to talk to. And I think it’s one of those things that makes me so sad that she’s not here, because I know that there have been so many days in my life that I wish that I could have had that person to talk to.” Gibson’s mom, Debbie, committed suicide on Feb. 24, 1998. For the 15th anniversary of her death, Gibson created a show, along with a series of blog posts, in honour of her mother and to open up a dialogue about mental health in a way that is universally understood.


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Gibson performed her solo cabaret, ‘Life is Sweet, Even in February’, for the first time on Feb. 22, 2013. She shared her thoughts, feelings and memories of her mom with the audience. The show included renditions of well-known songs that have resonated with Gibson over the years, including Coldplay’s ‘Fix You’, The Fray’s ‘How to Save a Life’ and the Spice Girls’ ‘Mama’.

Photo courtesy of Ashley Gibson

But Gibson says she realized the show might not be enough. The venue, the Flying Beaver Pubaret on Parliament Street, had a capacity of only around 50 people. “Lying in bed one night, I was like, ‘How can I make this impact more people?’” she said. It was then that Gibson decided to reach out to see if more people would share their stories, sending e-mails and posting requests for participants through social media.

Ashley Gibson as a young girl poses with her mom, Debbie Gibson.

The result of her search was a series of guest posts on her blog, Dancing Through Life. Those who volunteered wrote pieces on everything from depression and suicide to eating disorders and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). “The response was awesome and overwhelming and amazing,” Gibson said. “I ended up having 25 or 26 dif-

ferent people write for me over the course of the month.” “I had people tell me, who had written some of the posts, how therapeutic and fantastic it was for them to share the information.” Shannon Cottrell, 34, was one those bloggers. On Feb. 12, she wrote about her experiences with depression, suicide and SAD.


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‘Lying in bed one night, I was like ‘How can I make this impact more people?’ - Ashley Gibson

At first, she says she was nervous about telling her story, because it was something she didn’t often discuss. “And then I decided to take that leap and just share it,” she said. “And I’m glad I did, because I’ve had some people in various parts of my life come up to me after it was shared and tell me about their stories.” Cottrell says she believes the blog post series is successful in initiating conversations. “I absolutely loved reading the rest of the stories of people who participated because it made me feel like I wasn’t alone,” she said. “It’s still nice to know that you’re not the only one with that past and that people can understand you.” Both Gibson and Cottrell say mental illness is a subject that isn’t spoken about nearly enough.

According to the CAMH (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health) website, one in five people in Ontario experience a mental health or addiction issue, and nearly 4,000 Canadians commit suicide each year. With these numbers, Gibson says she doesn’t understand why there is such a negative stigma around the discussion of these topics. “Everyone is being touched by someone with mental illness at some point in their life,” she said. “So why are we going to be quiet about that and not talk about it and make it this taboo subject?” Gibson is now working on organizing her guest posts for February of the coming year. And on Feb. 10, 2014, she will perform her show for the second time, with some changes, with Angelwalk Theatre at the Toronto Centre for the Arts on Yonge Street. more on next page...

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Tara Litvack is the musical director for the show. She says she is pleased the ‘Life is Sweet Project’ will be put on again. “It’s great that we can go to a broader audience,” she said. “People can come see it who haven’t seen it before and who missed it last year. It brings people in to think about the subject matter of mental illness that we wouldn’t normally hit.” Litvack believes that exploring these topics through an artistic medium can be very effective. “There’s something different about the immediacy of it being such a human experience when it comes to a show,” she said. “I mean, talking about Ashley’s mom...you’re putting a human face to something and that’s very powerful.” Gibson agrees, and adds that lending her personal experience to the show can make it more relatable to the audience. “While someone may not feel comfortable talking about mental health...they might be able to watch a show...and that may help them feel something differently,” she said. “I think art can change people’s perspectives, knowingly or not.” In addition to opening up dialogue about mental health and celebrating her mom’s life, Gibson aims for her audience to see a deeper message in the ‘Life is Sweet Project’. “I hope that people can learn from my experience,” Gibson said. “That in spite of the challenges we may face, that life really is sweet and good at the end of the day. That we all have a lot of things to be thankful for.” All proceeds from the shows will be donated to CAMH. - Kristin Eliason

Ashley Gibson


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Alexandra Gater

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ibson will perform The Life is Sweet Project with Angelwalk Theatre at the Toronto Centre for Arts on Feb. 10, 2014.


Photo courtesy of Karla Moy

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Who is your

favourite young artist of the month? Ours is graphic designer and photographer Karla Moy.

Karla ‘hustleGRL’ Moy: remixing the creative music industry

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In 2010 Lil Wayne, one of the world’s most popular and controversial rappers, won the Mixtape Of The Year award at MTV’s Sucker Free Summit for his album ‘No Ceilings’. Karla Moy, a self-taught graphic designer from Toronto, is the artist behind the cover of that mixtape, which she designed when she was still in high school at the age of 17. The album cover is filled with a collage of photos of Lil Wayne performing; the text of ‘No Ceilings’ is an array of orange, yellow and red colours, making it look as though it is on fire. “I downloaded a program called Paint Shop Pro and then I would Google tutorials on how to use the program,” Moy said. “I ended up teaching myself how to design and it’s just something I kept doing. Over the years I got better and was offered money to do jobs and it just became a full time job.” Karen Civil, host of ‘Civil TV’ and blogger of all things hip-hop, contacted Moy about designing Lil Wayne’s mixtape cover. “Coming in, Karla just found the artist’s personality. You just saw what they were about, you saw them,” Civil said. “She knows how to make the artist’s personality shine through the cover.” Civil says that Moy’s love for what she does has allowed her to thrive in the tough, male-dominated industry of music at such a young age. All photos curtousy of Karla Moy

“She has all these strikes against her: she is a young, woman of colour,” Civil said. “She never lets the negative surpass her passion and her love for things. That has always worked in her favour.”

From top to bottom: Karla Moy, Karla with Drake, fans at Drake’s

Now 21, Moy has built a small empire for herself in the creative industry. Her talent for graphic design has landed her the title of ‘Complex Magazine’s’ “10 music heads that should be A&Rs” (artists and repertoire) and graphic design clients that include Interscope Records, Puma and


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GM Canada. Alex Ciccimarro is the author of the ‘Complex Magazine’ article, which was published in January. He is a digital marketer at ALMG, a marketing and promotions company. He says as well as being good at what she does, Moy has made a lot of things happen for herself. “(Moy) put herself in good positions,” Ciccimarro said. “The industry at the end of the day is all about networking and all about who you know...she was able to make good relationships with people that were going to get her opportunities.” One of those key relationships was with Drake, a Toronto-born hip-hop artist who stepped into the Canadin music scene in 2006. His success has since reached international heights; this February, his album ‘Take Care’ won the Grammy for Best Rap Album.

really go to get official or up-to-date information about Drake,” Moy said. The website also played a huge role in Moy’s artistic career. Joining Drake on tour, she became the official photographer for the ‘All Things Fresh’ website. “It’s so crazy because I started out doing the graphic design, and when I did the Drake fan site a lot of things like marketing and digital marketing came into the picture,” she said.

‘Coming in, Karla just found the artist’s personality. You just saw what they were about, you saw them.’ - Karen Civil, host of Civil TV

Today, many believe Moy has played an integral role of his success. Among other things, she designed ‘All Things Fresh,’ a fan site for Drake, in 2007. “All Things Fresh was...the only platform that connected Drake with his fans,” Moy said. “At the time he didn’t have a Twitter, he didn’t have a Facebook and Instagram wasn’t around.” Drake knew about the fan site, and he and Moy began to chat through text messages, and became friends. It was through this relationship that ‘All Things Fresh’ became Drake’s official fan site. “It played a really big role in his career because at the time no one was really covering his music. He didn’t have a website and there was nowhere to

Moy’s ability to make connections has landed her a vital spot in the music industry. Today, she manages and promotes artists across Canada and the United States. “I like to help break artists,” Moy said. “I will post a lot of underground artists (on my website)...it’s always great to go on a website and discover a new artist. You get to enjoy their music on your own...and you kind of help create something.”

Moy’s website, ‘hustleGRL’, boasts more than 4,500 fans on Facebook and features interviews with artists like Kendrick Lamar and Iggy Azalea. Somewhere in between, Moy studies French and history at York University. “Karla just has that thing that you don’t find in most people,” Civil said. “She has that drive and that ambition. She gets it. To me, she has that gift.” Ciccimarro agrees. “(Moy) is just plugged in,” he said. “She’s young. And she hustles.” -Alexandra Gater

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Where she sits in the literary world

And then, sometime in the aftermath of all the anger, debate and discussion, another point was uncovered: the fight against sexism in the literary community is still very much alive. “We have a cultural bias that literature really is the providence of men,” said Gillian Jerome, founder of Canadian Women in the Literary Arts (CWILA). “I think women hold this bias just as much as men. I think there is a lot of internalized misogyny around who gets to produce culture, who is literary, who can be a master.”

community, and the need to encourage more women critics. The 2012 CWILA Count, for example, found that in 2011 17 per cent of the Walrus’ reviewers were female, and 88 per cent were male. In 2012, that number shifted drastically.

‘A woman’s perspective is heard so seldom.’

- Susan G. Cole, senior entertainment editor for NOW Magazine

Jerome founded CWILA in May 2012 after noticing the ways in which men and women took up space at the Vancouver Poetry Conference. CWILA strives to promote equality and a strong female presence in critical culture by fundraising for two programs; the CWILA Count and Critic-in-Residence program. “Natalie Walschots...counted Michael Lista’s book review section in the National Post and she found that he was reviewing men significantly more often then he was reviewing...women,” Jerome said. “And that’s when I started asking questions.” Those questions led Jerome to do her own research. In 2012, CWILA counted 2,500 book reviews. What they found, according to Christine Leclerc, who sits on CWILA’s board of directors, was a gender gap in the review

“We do see a lot of Canada’s major book review publications changing their practices as a result of the release of the CWILA count in the past couple of years,” Leclerc said. “(But) we did come to see that there is also a need to encourage more women to participate in review culture.” Susan G. Cole, senior entertainment editor of NOW Magazine and one of the very few female critics in the journalism industry, agrees.

“I get a lot of really strong response from my film writing because a woman’s perspective is heard so seldom. The first thing I wrote about (in film) was why I hated No Country for Old Men...and I got a huge response from women who said, ‘Well, finally somebody is saying some of the things we wouldn’t hear from anybody else other than a female critic.’” Jerome says a large contributing factor for the lack of female critics could be due to the social make-up of reviewers in Canada. Despite their findings, Jerome and Leclerc both view the act of reviewing to be an important part of an author’s career.

- Alexandra Gater // to view the full article, see our website or scan here

Photo courtesy of fotolia

This September, David Gilmour, Pelham Edgar Professor of Literary Studies at the University of Toronto and winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award, claimed he does not “love women writers enough to teach them.” What followed was outrage.

The presence of sexism in the literary community


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Photo courtesy of fotolia

literature

* A found poem with text culled and adapted from Canadian Notes & Queries, The Globe & Mail, The National Post, The New York Times, The Guardian. Originally published on Lemon Hound on Apr 26, 2013.

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Before I die Before I die I want to

perform o broadway s

(Ashley Gibson / pg

Before I die I want to

(Rema Tavares / p

Before I die... It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and forget what really matters to you. Before I Die is a global public art project that invites people to reflect on theirlives and share their personal aspirations in public space. Originally created by artist Candy Chang on an abandoned house in her neighborhood in New Orleans after she lost someone she loved, the project is here thanks to passionate local residents who wanted to create a space for their community to share more with one another.

Before I die I want to

It’s about creating public spaces that help us see we are not alone as we try to lead personally meaningful lives. More than 100 walls have been created in over 10 languages and in over 30 countries, including Kazakhstan, Argentina, Korea, Italy, Australia Germany, and South Africa. For more information visit www.beforeidie.cc.

publish a n

(Alexandra Gater / rou

Before I die I want to

go home and there (Grace An / pg.

have my paintings

Before I die I want to

It’s about remembering what is important to you. It’s about getting to know the people around you in new and enlightening ways.

have made a real an impact on my com

all continents of

(Ilene Sova / p

create as many stron can that speak about

Before I die I want to

Before I die I want to

all self-identifie

(Joelle Circe / p

start a ch

(Vida Korhani / rou


die...

m on a ay stage

The book ‘Before I Die’ is now on sale

have my paintings displayed in galleries and

Before I die I want to

homes all over the world

Before I die I want to

love

on / pg. 34)

eal and lasting y community

res / pg. 9)

a novel

(Kristin Eliason / rouse editor)

Before I die I want to

n / pg. 22)

take a midnight dog sled in finland (Lindy Oughtred / associate editor)

r / rouse editor)

and stay ere

(Jordan Clarke / pg. 9)

Before I die I want to

(rouse reader)

ntings shown on

ts of the world

ova / pg. 18)

Before I die I want to

(rouse reader)

strong pieces as i

about and celebrate

entified women

rce / pg. 27)

a charity

ni / rouse editor)

Before I die I want to

Before I die I want to

(rouse reader)

(rouse reader)


an artistic magazine to inspire truly passionate women

Profile for 00703

rouse (issue 1)  

december 2013: a magazine to inspire truly passionate women

rouse (issue 1)  

december 2013: a magazine to inspire truly passionate women

Profile for 00703