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“My scrambled eggs this morning remind me of things I dare not write.”
Her words shake a cold angst in my chest as I read through Masik’s MySpace blog. There is something at once so beautiful and eerily haunting about her that seems to stare back at me from the photos and articles detailing her work….
Of course, there can be no doubt that some of this stems directly from her famously controversial collection, The Forgotten Project. The sixty-nine 8’ x 10’ portraits of DTES’s missing women are an accurately and unabashedly stark tribute that, contrary to their title, cannot be easily erased from memory. “I painted Tanya today. She is a haunting painting.” Masik herself expresses a particularly profound reaction to the project, one that has inspired her to found a new arts program for the women who rely on support from the Union Gospel Mission – a program through which she hopes to encourage social change by nurturing creative voices that would be otherwise unheard. “It’s not about opening a wallet (although it helps with many programs). It’s about being an inspiration and being inspired at once.”
The collection was to be exhibited at the Museum of Anthropology early last year, but the potentially world-shifting show was cancelled due to concerns about the distress is might cause for individuals close to victims depicted in the portraits. Indeed, Masik’s work has been the subject of much controversy among groups such as feminist collectives and political figures; many have questioned her true intentions and motives behind creating the dramatic depictions of missing and murdered women. Masik’s poetry and journals, however, speak so deeply and authentically of her experience and impressions of living in the Downtown Eastside that I find it difficult to doubt her honesty. In one particular verse, she describes living in her apartment on the Eastside, discovering “needles [and] feces” on her doorstep and comforting her son who is too afraid to walk the short distance between home and studio. “Never judge, everyone has a story,” she writes, a reflection of her own lesson imparted upon her child. She dedicates her work “especially for women most vulnerable” and expresses dismay for “society’s continuing refusal to acknowledge what happened to these women”. In every statement, she describes her Forgotten Project as a reflection of “society’s apathy toward a group of women marginalized by race, gender, and sexuality” – a bold expression of accumulated frustration and passionate response to the suffering experienced by the subjects in her sixty-nine portraits. Regardless of whether or not Masik indulges in any personal profit rendered from her projects, her cause is one of truth – the social implications of which are immeasurable.
Since completing The Forgotten Project, Pamela Masik has busied herself with numerous other artistic and social endeavours, including a vibrant series of paintings entitled The Caged Bird Collection exhibited in Miami. Her artwork is currently featured in both private and corporate collections across the UK and North America, as well as in Spain, Dubai, and China. Her studio in False Creek spans an impressive 14 000 square feet and hosts many of her latest creations, available for private viewing only. She often opens the studio to local events, such as Vancouver Fashion Week, which took place last November; at many of these she entrances her guests with live performances and demonstrations of her unique artistic methods – my favourite of which is transforming her whole body into a many-bristled brush to most directly infuse her emotions into colour on canvas. Her website, www.masik.ca, features a captivating video offering a taste of her visual, vocal, and lyrical style that you won’t want to miss. There you’ll also find a similarly vivid introductory film to her Forgotten Project. A quick visit to her MySpace profile garners a treat of several songs she’s recorded over the last couple of years that will leave you searching for more. She’s also anticipating the release of a feature documentary film and two books in the upcoming months. Even the digital online representations of her art are stunning – an achievement that we here at Kihada Kreative Finds especially appreciate.
As I watch Pamela Masik appear and influence the arts community, and ponder the impact she has on the social and political realms of our city, I become aware of how vital and deep-seated our need for expression is and has always been. Again, regardless of whether or not it renders financial success or widespread acclaim, we need to speak our voice. I’m truly grateful for the opportunities available to us today that offer a platform for our creativity, and for the chance to explore what comes of these channels. We try to nurture this communal function at Kihada, and we hope our readers can relate.
Pamela Masik’s digital short by Sharad Khare
Video by: kharé Communications