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The Downtown Eastside Women’s Art Collective

Mixed media zine, edited by Jessica Todd, Jenn McDermid and Hanna Fazio, Issue #2,

In the realm of objecthood and zines, DEWAC’s collection of art and poetry stands out. It’s not because it boasts left-of-centre design or makes some deft moves with a pair of scissors and some materials. It’s simply because it is a sleekly produced zine with glossy pages showing off the vibrant colours of the artwork oh-so-well.

This is important, because the Vancouver-based DEWAC is a non-profit, volunteer-run organization that clearly cares about empowering the women and non-binary artists who access its spaces. The featured work comes out of a biweekly workshop, and efforts are made to sell each piece, with all profits going to the artists. The zine’s polish attests to an eye for quality that offers something a little elevated. It is also likely meant to encourage these artists to see themselves as exactly that: artists, who are published, catalogued and exhibited.

The work itself is a range of dynamic pieces. Deirdre Keohane’s oil portrait of Irish Revolutionary Nationalist Constance Markievicz captures the weariness and determination of an activist who claimed to do very little, yet was the first woman to be elected to the British House of Commons. Selina K. Barton’s simple rhyming schemes betray complex and bittersweet emotions in the poem “Happy Aboriginal Day”: “Song + dance as we should / Laugh + joke if we could.” Theresa Ng’s collage of fashion magazine cut-outs play with multiple meanings, as a hairdryer can be read as a gun pointing at the temple of a self-conscious young model.

Alongside the diversity of styles, the zine captures the diversity of artists who make Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside their home. Short bios provide a snapshot of creativity and resilience coming out of a neighbourhood that is more often than not reduced to stereotypes about poverty and crime. (I. Rattan)

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