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Pure Virtue, 1985

Tanya Mars
American, Canadian, 1948
colour videotape, stereo, 15:00 minutes on 3/4" cassette
Purchased 1989
National Gallery of Canada (no. 30061)

Appropriating the image of Queen Elizabeth I, Tanya Mars engages her audience in discourses of love, sex, death and women’s relationships to power by acting out vaudeville-style, over-the-top gestures. These include juggling, birthing a gilded chicken and breathing fire, all the while struggling to balance her political and sexual identities; for Tanya Mars, performance artists are akin to visual philosophers. Developed from four five-minute skits performed at Toronto’s Rivoli Club in 1984, "Pure Virtue" evolved into a trilogy of interrelated performances. While her work is often bawdy and ripe with bodily humour, Mars is pointed in her critique of patriarchy and gender stereotypes.




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