It’s the first week of a new month, and that means the AGO will once again be taken over by art, food and conversation during First Thursday on May 4. Inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe and her resistance to being labeled “a woman artist” in a landscape of male peers, the theme for this week’s First Thursday is Gender Trouble.
The lineup of artists includes Toronto artist Catherine MacTavish (whose work you can see on display in Toronto: Tributes + Tributaries, 1971–1989), emerging artist Madelyne Beckles, and Lena Dunham-approved author Julie Cameron Gray.
Headlining the night is Toronto-based musician and performance artist Maylee Todd, who is inviting First Thursday-goers into her experiential performance, Virtual Womb. We spoke with Maylee about this captivating, participatory musical experience.
AGO: You’ve said about the project before, “You walk through a massive vagina… and then you are inside my womb.” What is Maylee Todd’s Virtual Womb?
Maylee Todd: Virtual Womb is a place of gestation, meditation, rebirth and deprogramming. Where birth and death are one of the same. A place with no past and there is no fear of the future. Any type of identification that may set you apart from another being; age, race, gender, education, nationality and status has no value here. We are all on neutral ground.
AGO: What inspired it?
Maylee Todd: I’ve always been inspired by the concepts of a planetarium. Lying on the ground and looking at the vast cosmos. The idea of observing something that is bigger than yourself/identification/ego.
AGO: How did you find your partner for this project, Roxanne Ignatius?
Maylee Todd: Roxanne Ignatius is a prominent visual artist in the Toronto indie community. I’ve known Roxanne for a long time. She has done a lot of work with Camp Wavelength, Digits, amongst many others and always delivers beautiful pieces that suits the project’s needs.
When I commissioned her to make the Vulva, I requested that it turns into a sleeping bag, has magnets in the folds, many pubic hairs and darker in shade to fit my skin tone. She went above and beyond.
AGO: Georgia O’Keeffe said “I am not a woman painter!” How do you respond to this, and to the theme of this First Thursday Gender Trouble?
Maylee Todd: I can absolutely relate to this quote. I play instruments, produce music, write lyrics, make projections, love and program sequencers, and as an aside I was a personal trainer for 15 years. These categories unfortunately have been dominated by men. In my day and still today, it was rare to see a female in these categories. In my mind I thought that I was being natural, expressing what I loved to do and exploring skills I was interested in.
I was only reminded of my gender when I heard comments like “I can’t believe this girl can…” or “You know, for a girl…” It’s frustrating and I used to get really upset, but in the past it only fuelled my passions.
Now I don’t let these comments take up my space. I hope that my multidisciplinary nature will be an inspiration for any gender on the spectrum that feels that their unique qualities can be celebrated and only they would intuitively know how to possess that power.
Don’t miss this month’s First Thursday! Tickets are on sale now.
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First Thursday Partners: