Joyce Wieland

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Joyce Wieland
Joyce Wieland.jpg
Joyce Wieland
Born Toronto, ON
Died Toronto, ON
Nationality Canadian
Education Central Technical School
Known for Film, painting
Movement Avant-Garde, Postmodernism
Spouse(s) Michael Snow (1956-1970)
Awards Royal Canadian Academy of Arts

Officer, Order of Canada

Joyce Wieland, OC (June 30, 1931 – June 27, 1998) was a Canadian experimental filmmaker and mixed media artist.


Wieland was born in Toronto in 1931. Wieland's aptitude for art was first expressed during her childhood, when she made many drawings and comic books to help her cope with the death of her parents.[1] As a teenager, she attended Central Technical School, where she studied commercial art and graphic design.[1][2] After completing her schooling, she worked at an animation studio, where she learned techniques she would later apply in her own films.[1]

In 1956, Wieland married filmmaker Michael Snow, who she had met through her job at the animation studio.[1][3] She had her first solo exhibition in 1960 at the Isaacs gallery in Toronto, making her the only woman that the prestigious gallery represented and instantly earning her greater recognition for her work.[3]

In 1962, Wieland and Snow moved to New York where they lived until 1971.[2] She attracted critical recognition of her work, including her 1971 solo show at the National Gallery of Canada, the first for a living female artist.[4] Eventually, she moved back to Toronto. Wieland later divorced Snow and maintained a studio practice in Toronto until her death on June 27, 1998 from Alzheimer's disease.[5] She was made a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.[6] She was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1982.


Joyce Wieland was a central figure in Canadian art during the 1960s and 1970s. Though she began her career as a painter, her work came to explore a wide range of materials and media, including film. The 1960s were an incredibly productive time for Wieland, as she responded to the contemporary artistic trends of Pop art and Conceptual art. Joanne Sloane maintains in Joyce Wieland: Life & Work, that her encounters with these influences "were always original and idiosyncratic.”[7] Sloane identifies the several consistent bodies of Wieland's work that emerged throughout the 1960s as: "quasi-abstract paintings that reveal messages, signs, or erotic drawings; collages and sculptural assemblages; filmic paintings; disaster paintings; plastic film-assemblages; quilts and other fabric-based objects; and language-based works."[7] Her art was often infused with humour, even as it engaged with issues of war, gender, ecology, and nationalism.[8]

Internationally Wieland is best known as an experimental filmmaker whose work challenged and bridged boundaries among avant-garde film factions of her time. Her works introduced a kind of manual manipulation of the filmstrip that inscribed an explicitly female craft tradition into her films while also playing with the facticity of photographed images. Wieland's output was small but received considerable attention in comparison to other female avant-garde filmmakers of her time. As both a gallery artist and a filmmaker, Wieland was able to cross over between those realms and to garner attention and support in both.

In the 1980s Joyce Wieland focused again on painting, though her representations of natural environments became less identifiably Canadian. With their intense colours and near psychedelic effects, Wieland’s later landscapes seem almost outside of time and place.[9]

Barren Ground Caribou, a fabric installation by Joyce Wieland at Spadina subway station in Toronto.

Films by Joyce Wieland[edit]

  • Tea in the Garden (circa 1956)[10]
  • A Salt in the Park (1958)
  • Larry's Recent Behaviour (1963)
  • Patriotism (1964)
  • Patriotism, Part II (1964)
  • Water Sark (1965)
  • Barbara's Blindness (1965) (co-directed with Betty Ferguson)
  • Peggy's Blue Skylight (1964–66)
  • Handtinting (1967–68)
  • 1933 (1967–68)
  • Sailboat (1967–68)
  • Rat Life and Diet in North America (1968)
  • Dripping Water (1969) (co-directed with Michael Snow)
  • Cat Food (1969)
  • Reason Over Passion/la raison avant la passion (1969) (a meditation on the Canada of Pierre Trudeau)
  • Pierre Vallières (1972)
  • Solidarity (1973)
  • The Far Shore (1976)
  • A and B in Ontario (1984) (co-directed with Hollis Frampton)
  • Birds at Sunrise (1972–86)

Films about Joyce Wieland[edit]

  • Artist on Fire. Joyce Wieland (Canada 1987) directed by Kay Armatage

Influences on Other Work[edit]

In 2014, the focus of artist Mark Clintberg[11]'s Fogo Island residency was a quilted response to Wieland's work Reason Over Passion. The original work, made in both English and French, was inspired by the motto of the then-Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau and was infamously torn apart by his wife, Margaret Trudeau, in a fit of rage at his cold logic.[12] Clintberg's response, sewn in collaboration with the Wind and Waves Artisans' Guild, turns Wieland's work on its head, formally quite literally as each piece of the quilt is stitched "wrong"-side up exposing its soft-coloured underbelly, but also figuratively, imagining a renewed need for passion instead of reason. Unlike Wieland's quilts, which hung on the wall, Clintberg's quilts are placed on a random bed each night at the Fogo Island Inn.[13]


  1. ^ a b Zemans, Joyce. "Joyce Wieland". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved April 12, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b "Joyce Wieland". Celebrating Women's Achievements. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved April 12, 2013. 
  3. ^ Angel, Sara (Fall 2011). "True Patriot Love: A landmark show turns 40". Canadian Art 28 (3): 104–110. 
  4. ^ Johnson, Brian D. (July 13, 1998). "ADIEU TO TWO PIONEERS: Joyce Wieland 1931-1998, Bill Reid 1920-1998". Maclean's 111 (28). 
  5. ^ "Members since 1880". Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. Retrieved 11 September 2013. 
  6. ^ a b Sloan, Johanne (2014). Joyce Wieland: Life and Work (PDF). Art Canada Institute. p. 6. 
  7. ^ Sloan, Johanne (2014). Joyce Wieland: Life and Work (PDF). Art Canada Institute. p. 38. 
  8. ^ Sloan, Johanne (2014). Joyce Wieland: Life and Work (PDF). Art Canada Institute. p. 47. 
  9. ^ Elder, Kathryn (1999). The Films of Joyce Wieland. Toronto: Cinematheque Ontario. ISBN 0-9682969-2-0. 
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^

Further reading[edit]

  • Johanne Sloan: Joyce Wieland's the Far Shore (Canadian Cinema), Univ of Toronto Press, 2010, ISBN 1-4426-1060-3
  • Iris Nowell. A Life in Art, Toronto: ECW Press, 2001. ISBN 1-55022-476-X
  • Kathryn Elder. The Films of Joyce Wieland, Toronto: Cinematheque Ontario, 1999. ISBN 0-9682969-2-0
  • Lind, Jane (2001). Joyce Wieland: artist on fire. Toronto: J. Lorimer. ISBN 9781550286953. 
  • Kristy A. Holmes-Moss. "Negotiating the Nation: 'Expanding' the Work of Joyce Wieland" Canadian Journal of Film Studies, vol. 15, no. 2, pp 20–43

External links[edit]