BY LAURA-LEE CASCAGNETTE
To some people, our identity is made up of many different things that help create who we are as an individual. We tie ourselves to our identity and wave it proudly, declaring to the world that this is who we are. But what happens when our identity changes and we no longer recognize who we are? Tara Joy Knibbe, 27, knows this feeling well.
“In the last year of my life my identity has undergone an overhaul of epic proportions- physically, mentally, spiritually. I became pregnant and my husband and I had a baby girl on none other than Women’s Day.”
This journey inspired her solo painting exhibit, Good, at Hamilton’s Flagship Gallery. “I have often explored topics related to womanhood, but suddenly I plunged myself in much deeper than before. I became continually confronted with a highly visibly physical change in my body (carrying another human being),” she says.
Knibbe’s exhibit showcases her journey through this transformation, finding peace through the colours and shapes she thoughtfully puts onto the canvas. The art is moving, each one speaking in its own language and emotion, bringing us on her journey through this time.
Knibbe says that through her journey, the art is meant to challenge how people think of woman and the subtleties we still have in our culture about the value of women in the role of motherhood and careers.
“Some of the pieces, like Femininity, I painted because at work I realized I was being apologetic about the fact that I was having a baby. Why was having a baby any less important than my job? Or, my job less important? Why does the culture have to determine that for me,” Knibbe says.
“It was largely towards men. I wondered if that was them or was that me? I decided I was not going to be apologetic about being a full-figured pregnant body that is here and present. I can still stand up and give an amazing presentation.”
The storyline woven throughout Good is relatable to many women on their own identity journeys and their quest for femininity. Elena Olthof, carrying around her newborn daughter and going through the exhibit says she identifies with many of the pieces as she is in a similar place in her life.
“I see so much in the art because we are going through many of the same experiences with our daughter. I feel like for me, I am seeing myself in a new light. Not just a wife but now as a mother too and trying to balance those things. I see a lot of motion and activity and making sense of everything together. It’s relevant.”
Knibbe is a manager of research and program evaluation at Abilities Centre, a non-profit organization that promotes participation and inclusion for people. She explains that there has been no other event that has had this effect on not only her identity and relationships, but her career. It has inspired her to think more intentionally about what it means to be a woman in modern culture, “freed from oppressive schools of thought, and yet still afraid of…what is it? Is it fear of being feminine? Carrying around a pregnant belly or a beautiful baby makes you undeniably feminine.”
For more information on Tara Joy Knibbe and her art, go to www.tarajoystudio.com