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Margaret Rodgers is an Oshawa-based artist with exhibition activities including IRIS at 20 (CWSE) at OISE and RMG Oshawa, FILMIC at Station Gallery Whitby, Closeups at RMG 2015, No Man’s Land (Erring on the Mount festival Peterborough), The Tree Museum: Easy Come Easy Go (AGP), WhiteOut TAC Art/Work Gallery Toronto, and OshawaSpaceInvaders 2013-14. In summer 2018 she exhibited solar prints at Fort St. John North Peace Museum B.C. International exhibition activity has included Mexico Beijing and the Adirondacks.

In 2008 she created IRIS in the North Country in Saranac Lake NY with further exhibition activity there in 2010 and 2013. For 2015/16 she was curator of Crossing Borders, an exchange between BluSeed Studios and VAC
Clarington. In 2017-18 she was Guest Curator for LEGACIES at RMG Oshawa.

She is the founder of the IRIS Group a collective of women artists, formerly art professor at Durham and  Centennial Colleges and Director/Curator at VAC Clarington. She is the author of Locating Alexandra (Toronto: ECW 1995) about Painters Eleven artist Alexandra Luke and is published in venues including Art and Ecology Sculpture Urban Glass Canadian Art ESPACE and the Journal of Canadian Studies. She has been a member of Heritage Oshawa and Oshawa’s Cultural Leadership Council. margaretrodgers.ca

As a writer, she has produced essays and reviews, and most recently a series of poems and memoir which she will be reading on November 24 at 1 p.m.

Lisa: Hello Margaret! How did it all start for you in the world of art? When did you realize you wanted to be an artist?

Margaret: I think I was always interested in it. My mother and sister both are/were artists and so maybe it’s in the genes. Something about paintings leaning against the walls and under the beds, the smell of oil paint, although I don’t use oils I still love that smell.


Lisa: Tell us a few words about yourself. What does a typical day look like? Do you just do art, or is art just part of the picture?

On a productive day, I head to my attic studio and office in the morning. After a late lunch, I do other things (read, sleep, errands). Depending on what I’m working on I could be at my desk and printer or working on a piece in my studio. Later in the afternoon, I head back up to continue with whatever I am working on.


Lisa: Tell us about your artwork, medium, style, subject matter etc.

Margaret: I tend to settle into a series once I have spent some time experimenting. Mixed media encompasses so much. Specifically, my base medium is acrylic. I am also doing solar prints on vintage linen, and while I first used the fabrics to print old family photos dating back to the 1890s, I then started incorporating solar-dyed images into mixed media pieces.

Most recently, my series CROSSWORDS has smiles and looks from press photographs of the French feminists de Beauvoir, Cixous, Irigary and Kristeva. I then used some words from their writings or lives in the crossword grids. For me it was an interesting way to revisit this theoretical material, and the use of a grid is a good way to organize a picture plane. Also, the suggestion of doing crosswords during the COVID lockdown was there. I also liked the inclusion of women’s handiwork from the past, loaded in its own way with meaning connected to past practices by women whose lives were somewhat ghettoized.

Some of the crosswords were created by taking buzz words from a range of discourse, and for two of the pieces I asked FaceBook artists to contribute words that they didn’t like to hear about their work, or examples of artspeak in writings on art.


Lisa: What is the process from start to final artwork, do you envision it from the beginning or is it a different process? And how do you know when a work is finished?

Margaret: Sometimes a title will jump out and bring with it an idea that has to be explored. Sometimes a particular medium will grab my imagination. I think work is finished when it starts to go downhill.


Lisa: You have an upcoming exhibition “Crosswords”, on Oct 28th. What’s the inspiration behind it?

Margaret: As discussed above, I was inspired by the idea of COVID lockdown, and thinking about what people were doing with all of that extra time. And I liked the double meaning of crosswords. The earlier pieces were little rants about money, democracy, climate, and so on. Then I got thinking about jargon, and from there it led to the feminist theory that I studied in cultural studies. In the end, I found revisiting that writing to be inspiring and illuminating, so there I simply used some of the words that connected to the individual writers.


Lisa: I loved your “VIRUS” piece. What’s the story behind it?

Margaret: So again the main preoccupation of society was the virus and the vaccination campaigns. As mentioned above, I have a trove of vintage linens including many round doilies. Their shapes beg for contemporary reference points, and so the coronavirus made its entrance here.


Lisa: How has your art evolved over the years?

Margaret: That’s an interesting question. I’d have to say that I’m less concerned or impressed with representation and more with finding a level of visual intensity and meaning.


Lisa: You are also a founder of the IRIS Group a collective of women artists. Tell us a bit more about that.

Margaret: I was Director/Curator at VAC Clarington and in that position I was invited to do a series of studio visits to a community of women artists on the other side of Toronto from where we were. It made me realize that we needed that here for so many reasons, i.e. strength in numbers, a collective voice to create projects, and simply a community of similar interests. When I put out the suggestion the response was overwhelmingly enthusiastic, and since then we have done social projects, group exhibitions, exchanges, and generally been a support for each other. At present, there are 7 of us, with most of us as original members.

Marketplace of ideas

Lisa: What is your favorite artwork from some artist you admire, and if you could pick one that you’ve made, and why?

Margaret:I just saw an exhibition called TOUCH at Propeller Gallery in Toronto, and the work thereby Dorothy Caldwell is my current favourite. She works with fiber and creates completely abstract pieces, so very different from mine.

Of my own work, I will go back to my BIG GIRLS series and choose one of the swimmer’s bellies titled Jul-58 (26 x 48 inches Acrylic on canvas)  Again it is part of a series of girls between eight and eleven years old who is acting big. They display a time in their lives between being cute dimply tots and becoming young maidens. They might still play hard and let their hair fly where it wants, but paint their nails and wear dangling earrings.

Lisa: Do you have a real-life situation that inspired your artwork?

Margaret: Well COVID lockdown would definitely be one.

And the exhibition that just closed at Women’s Art related to an early flower painter Mary Hiester Reid, and the book that Molly Peacock has just had published on her. We were invited to make work that related to MHR’s life and work, so I created some solar prints using her images on linens that were contemporary to her life.

My visits to Saranac Lake, a little place in the Adirondacks, has inspired an earlier series connecting its history of tuberculosis treatment to local architecture.

The Ghost Piano series was inspired by an old upright I photographed again in Saranac Lake.

MONEY ETC related to the financial crisis.

So likely they all do.


Lisa: Are there any upcoming shows or workshops we should know about?

Margaret: My current preoccupation is the CROSSWORDS show, and from here I am basically experimenting to find my way to something else. My friend just texted me about making some berry ink that she says she will share with me so maybe that will inspire something. I’m writing a lot and doing a reading on November 24 on zoom. I plan to read some poems I have right now in the Sunshine Review, as well as a Christmas story titles Boomer. Also I give an art history series online through the Women’s Art Association of Canada and am currently talking about various art couples. We’ve been having a great time with Max Ernst and his many women.


Lisa: What are you currently working on, and what is next for you?

Margaret: Mostly writing at the moment, but I have created several solar prints that I will likely use in collage over the winter, and today I assembled a handmade paper circle onto a canvas that I had painted some time ago. Perhaps it will end up in one of the Women’s Art theme shows.


To find out more about Margaret and her art, check:





Thank you!

One Reply to “Meet Margaret Rodgers an Artist, Writer and Curator”

  1. What an inspirational woman and artist! So many great exhibits and projects over the years and this one is another winner. Check it out at the Women’s Art Association in Toronto!

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