Artist Tamires Para Pedroso moved to Edmonton from Brazil to earn her Master of Fine Arts degree in painting, and while studying, started learning more about women and gender studies, and their intersection with art. What Pedroso learned ultimately informed her final visual presentation for her degree, Thick Skins: Our Journey Towards Communal Healing, which explores what she calls the “microaggressions” that women deal with every day.
In Brazil, Pedroso worked as an illustrator and graphic designer, working on things like video games and book covers. She entered her program at the University of Alberta not really knowing how to paint, but jumped into the classes that offered live models so she could practice the human figure.
As she practiced more and more, she started sharing her ideas about what she’d like to research for her Master’s degree.
“I had this vague idea that I wanted to deal with women’s representation, but I wanted to talk about it from the perspective of media,” she explains. “I was very much coming from a designer’s standpoint, so I was thinking, ‘Well, we have this untapped market of women that consume certain types of media, like video games and movies and stuff like that, is there a way that I can figure it out? That we can represent the diversity [with which] we represent male bodies, but with female bodies?’”
But Pedroso says her research focus shifted at the beginning of her second year. It became much more about her own experience, her own body, and how she could relate that to people around her.
“It became much more … about coping and healing with trauma, but trauma related to the way we deal with our own body image in a very patriarchal society,” she says.
Pedroso photographed other women, as well as herself, and then digitally distorted the photographs before using them as references for her paintings. She says she did alter some things between the photograph and painting stage—such as how light or dark an area was—but didn’t make any major changes, because her process involved offering her models as much agency as possible.
“I wanted the model to be as comfortable as they wanted to be with the final result, as well,” she says. “So yes, I took the pictures, and I’m doing the compositing on Photoshop and digitally so I can create those compositions—I won’t do anything they’re not comfortable with.”
The models were then able to see the digital images before Pedroso started painting so that they could ask her to change anything they weren’t okay with.
Pedroso also says that she originally started out by painting her models from life, in studio, but many of them were self-conscious so she started photographing them in their homes instead—making the process much shorter and letting the models relax in a familiar environment.
Pedroso read a lot of texts on painting techniques for her research, but was also recommended a number of books by people she knew in the women’s and gender studies program. Her favourite was The Art of Reflection by Marsha Meskimmon.
“It’s a book that talks about self-portraiture and it kind of makes a timeline of like women artists that have dealt with that same subject matter and strategies that they’ve used to nullify or challenge the male gaze,” Pedroso says.
A trip to Paris, where she visited not only the Louvre, but contemporary galleries, also inspired her.
She hopes that anyone who decides to see the show will keep an open mind.
“These are valid experiences and just because this type of trauma doesn’t happen to you, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist,” she says. “Be open, be respectful, and be ready to ask yourself difficult questions.”
Pedroso also has work from the same series in Dyscorpia at Empire Square Galleries.
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