Organization of Kingston Women Artists
visual artists

Event Blog

(posted on 20 Oct 2020)

Spy vs. Spy by Mary Peppard

Image: "Spy vs. Spy" by Mary Peppard 

This year's OKWA exhibit is "Un-Restricted" and is hanging at the Window Art Gallery at the Kingston School of Art. 647a Princess St. @ Victoria St., Kingston, ON. The exhibit can be viewed in person with safe-distance requirements until October 25th 2020. Additionally the pieces and statements from the exhibit can be viewed virtually through the link below:

What does it mean to be unrestricted?  Is it even possible for an artist’s creative process to be entirely free? ...  Or do we inherently carry the weight of our constraints — in our culture, our history, our education, our dreams?  

Restrictions take many forms, not all of them equal and not all of them obstacles.  A media or size restriction, for instance, may inspire an artist to experiment with something new, while a religious, cultural or financial restriction might prohibit exploration altogether.  Or not.  As we know, art is no stranger to political or cultural strife.  We can predict, for instance, that the global stresses of social distancing, lost lives and fear in this time of Covid-19 has worked its way into the voices of artists everywhere. 

While our theme was selected before the time of COVID-19, it has correlated well with this new era.  Twenty-five OKWA artists have explored the theme of ‘unrestricted’ in their approach to their work, with some specifically addressing, in varying ways, the impact of this unique time. One common thread appears as some artists use the unsettling nature of the pandemic to change aspects of their art practice, perhaps with a new medium or technique. As artist Phillida Hargreaves states:  “This pandemic has taken control away from us all.  But it has helped me loosen my need to plan for the future. I feel it changing my approach to art.”

While UNRESTRICTED suggests a parameter, conversely, it also invites a range of perspectives.  As artists we explore and along our journeys we make choices. Perhaps, having a choice of any sort — despite the restrictions which carved our paths — is the greatest liberty of all.

(posted on 17 Oct 2018)

Our annual exhibition, now showing! A wonderful array of work, with accompanying statements. The statements spoke of each artist's relationship to issues of gender and feminism in their art. For some this connection was minimal, for others, an experience of major impact, and for many, a single female artist provided an inspiring role model and style for their own art journey.

Photos by Martine Bresson.

guests at the opening event

careful regard

JT Winik, next to her painting

and always the hanging event that comes before:

Sylvat Aziz and Donna Brown

checking things from all angles, Rose, Ann and Caroline

(posted on 21 Oct 2017)

Each year in conjunction with our annual exhibition, we hold a critique night for members and the public.  This is an evening for members artists to share and discuss work-in-progress or, alternatively, talk about and answer questions about their work in the exhibition.   Here's a few photos, by Patricia VanAsperen, of this year's event.


 Michele LaRose talking about her large painting to her left, and the Tom Thomson influence on her work.


Lise Melhorn-Boe discussing her installation piece.


Erika Olson and her piece "The Kiss"

(posted on 21 Oct 2017)

Our 2017 exhibition "Inspired by...", honoured the 150th birthday of modern Canada.  Each exhibiting artist selected a Canadian artist who had inspired her and how and this information was posted next to each work of art.  This gave viewers an interesting window into the mind of the artist and her work.  

Here are some photos of our opening night.  The art work is getting some close scrutiny from the viewers!  Thanks to Michael East for these.  



and a few images of the show installation, by Martine Bresson:

  Caroline, Patricia, Anne, Mary P.

 Sylvat hanging her work

  Jane and Patricia

(posted on 26 Jun 2017)

The OKWA board has completed its selection of our 2017 scholarship recipient for a highschool student entering an arts education. $1000 was awarded to Monique Yang of the LCVI Creative Arts Focus Program. Monique has been accepted into the Ontario College of Art and Design for September. Congratulations, Monique. The amount of this scholarship is offered by OKWA membership and the family of Verna Vowles, OKWA member who passed away in 2016.


Our president, Sue Lyon, presents Monique with her scholarship.

Sue Lyon, Monique, and Karen Peppercorn, head of the LCVI arts program and Monique's teacher.

(posted on 1 Oct 2016)

Our 2016 Exhibition is on now at Kingston's Tett Centre. Here's some views of the show.

Donna Brown, Erika Olson, Wendy Cain

Mary Crawford, Michele LaRose, Sharon Thompson

Peggy Morley, Rose Stewart, Mary O'Brien

Jane Derby, Mieke Van Geest, Marni King, Martine Bresson, Patricia Van Asperen

Sue Lyon, Maya Jagger, Julie Kojro, Debra Brown

Lee-Ann Taras, Mary Peppard

Lise Melhorn-Boe, Vera Donefer

Julie Withrow, Ann Clarke, Zillah Loney, Alana Kapell, Ginny Trousdale, Diane Black

Nancy Paul, Mary Crawford, JT Winik, Barb Carr

ballerinas from the Kingston School of Dance

(posted on 17 Sep 2016)

Verna Vowles

In Memorium

The Organization of Kingston Women Artists was truly honoured to have Verna Vowles as a much loved member for 12 years. Verna passed away at age 98, and was still busy painting at age 96. Her talent was amazing and she exhibited her wonderful work in our group exhibitions every year. She was a gracious and inspiring member of the group and will be greatly missed. Her abstract expressionist works were always striking and were enjoyed by all who saw them in our many shows. Several times her work was recognized by our external jurors and this was much deserved.

OKWA is a group of 56 professional women artists with a 28 year history in Kingston. This year the OKWA Board decided to reinstate our student bursary which we would dedicate to Verna. It was to be called the Verna Vowles Bursary. We had decided this before Verna passed away. This bursary of $500.00 will be awarded to a secondary school student, male or female from Kingston School Boards, who has decided to pursue post-secondary studies in Visual Art. Students will be required to submit a portfolio and a description of their work and artistic ambitions to OKWA. Their submissions will be juried by a group of OKWA members. We were happy to learn that Verna’s family was planning to establish a Bursary in her name and would accept donations to support this project. OKWA will administer the funds collected and will now be able to assist more than one student with a bursary. I think Verna would be very happy with this plan. Cheques collected should be made out to OKWA (Organization of Kingston Women Artists) with a memo that the funds be applied to the Verna Vowles Bursary Fund. We will honour Verna during our fall exhibition to be held at the Tett Centre from October 1 until October 28 2016.

Verna, on the right, with another of our members, Vera Donefer. Verna loved bright colours and her violet jacket attests to this.

Our juried exhibition at Kingston's Pumphouse Steam Museum was highly successful. A well-attended opening night included Kingston's Poet Laureate, Helen Humphries, reading her poem, "Limestone", which fit in so well with our theme. "A Sense of Place" was " a visual exploration of Kingston, a personal, social, historical and emotional look at Kingston through the eyes of OKWA members".

Artists talks were held one evening, featuring Caroline Marshall and Maureen Sheridan.

Two of our members facilitated a collage workshop for school age children, along with touring our show with them. (see photos below)

Jane Derby opening the show.

School Children's Collage Workshop, led by Rose Stewart and Mary Peppard

Jane Derby, left, co-curator of the Organization of Kingston Women Artists’ exhibition ”A Sense of Place,” stands with one panel from her mixed media piece while Maggie Sutherland works on her piece "The Day They Took the Herd." (Julia McKay/The Whig-Standard)

Kingston artists find 'A Sense of Place' By Peter Hendra, Kingston Whig-Standard, Wednesday, March 23, 2016

After artist JT Winik moved into her Swamp Ward home in 1998, she would often arrive home and find the same female prostitute standing near her house under the blinking red traffic signal. “It was culturally diverse and also demographically diverse,” Winik said of her neighbourhood back then. You had a lot of artists, a few upwardly mobile people, and you had a great deal of very stray people, people who live on the edges, I would say.” A couple of years later, though, the prostitutes vanished from ‘Rag ‘n’ Bag’ (the intersection of Raglan Road and Bagot Street).

“One wonders what we do with these marginalized people, where they go, and where they’re forced to go, especially with sex workers,” said Winik. So, when she was asked to create a piece for the Organization of Kingston Women Artists’ new exhibition, “A Sense of Place” — which opens Friday at the Pump House Steam Museum — she thought of that young prostitute, who is the focal point of her oil painting “The Girl on the Corner.”

“It was something that came to my mind in terms of looking at one specific corner I knew a lot about and seeing how it had transformed,” she explained. “The Swamp Ward, in general, has transformed over the years.” Gentrification has crept in, and the area is now home to young professionals and their families, as well as artists and writers. The transformation of Swamp Ward is but one of several changes that have taken place in Kingston over the years.

Jane Derby is the co-curator, along with Mieke Van Geest, of the juried exhibition.

“I grew up in Kingston, and I really like the idea of having a show where the individual artist looks at Kingston from their own viewpoint to see what they would come up with,” said Derby, who, for her piece, re-created a rockface found in the former Pittsburgh Township out of recycled metal. “Of course, all of them are totally different. Some of them are landscapes, some of them have a more social viewpoint — but they’re all unique and idiosyncratic.”

The paintings of artist Maggie Sutherland, whose nude portrait of former prime minister Stephen Harper grabbed national headlines a few years ago, often contain some sort of social commentary. Her submission for the OKWA show, “The Day They Took the Herd,” chronicles the closure of local prison farms. “It stuck in my mind,” she said. “That was five years ago, and I finally did something. It’s ironic that it’s taken me so long that the cows may actually be coming back now.”

While she took part in some of the earlier protests, she was out of town when the cows were actually taken away. A friend of hers, a retired teacher, was there and she was struck by how things soon turned confrontational. That, Sutherland said, was reflective of the national mood at the time.

"Kingston is a dichotomy. On one side we’re very conservative,” she said, “and on the other side we do have people who are willing to become very socially involved and go as far as being arrested.”

For Marney McDiarmid, who has a master’s degree in history, the area’s rich history sometimes inspires her work. Her submission, a ceramic box titled “There Are A Lot of Things I Do Not Know,” is intended to question the history of First Nations people in the area. A friend of McDiarmid’s who’s an archivist found a deed for the sale of Rabbit Island in the Thousand Islands. The proceeds from the sale to a private buyer were supposed to go to the indigenous people.

“I also went to a talk and there was an arts group, an aboriginal arts group, that was presenting and part way through that talk I realized how little I know, and a lot of people know, about the history of indigenous people in this area,” she recalled about the inspiration for her piece. “Going to that talk, combined with seeing the deed, it just raised a lot of questions for me.”

While Hanna Back doesn’t live in the city but to the north of it since 1979, her piece, “It Could Happen Here,” a spiral comprised of 140 pieces of paper porcelain, paper and wood, is meant to symbolize Kingston’s potential. “I have seen Kingston grow over the past 35 years and have seen tremendous changes,” she said. Kingston’s downtown has potential for tourism and small businesses, but she doesn’t feel it’s being supported the way it could be.One thing that concerns her is the lack of a public gallery downtown. She would like to see the creation of one that would be free of charge, inside a space already owned by the city, perhaps somewhere inside City Hall. She would like to see the creation of a public gallery, one that would be free of charge, inside a space already owned by the city, perhaps somewhere inside City Hall.

Like Back, Derby is concerned about the city’s downtown core, specifically the towering housing projects being proposed. The one proposed for Princess Street between Sydenham and Montreal streets, in particular, concerns her esthetically. “Ugliness is not a criteria for making decisions,” she suggested, “but I think it should be.” Artists, she feels, notice things, mostly visual ones, that the general public might overlook, and that the exhibition offers a unique perspective.

“I thought that it would be good for the community to appreciate and question and criticize,” she concluded, “the way Kingston has evolved.”

The Organization of Kingston Women Artists presents “A Sense of Place,” featuring the work of 26 artists in the Pump House Steam Museum. The exhibition runs from April 1-23.

older blog items...