Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Pamela Masik - The Forgotten

I have always commented on how very privileged I am to be able to interview.  I believe everyone's life stories will define our times - not just those of celebrities - and I live by the creedo, "Everyone has a story to tell, it's just a matter of asking the right questions."

Pamela Masik is an artist I wanted to interview for quite a long time.  When Schon Magazine offered me the opportunity to write on her, I was delighted.  After scheduling a time to meet, I started to do a little internet research and was surprised at the lack of information out there.  Most was centred around the controversy surrounding The Forgotten and it seemed very biased and incomplete.  This left me with a deep sense of curiosity and I wasn't disappointed. On the average, I end up with 5-8 pages of material to work from.  My time with her produced over 11.  I couldn't have asked for a more open and honest interview.

Art for Masik is a deep expression that comes from the very core of her being. "I use whatever I am feeling to push me to express. I need to express."   Each series has a message which is conveyed through several different mediums - painting, live performance, sculpture, photography, etc., and she gives 110% of herself to the process of creation.  Long hours are spent in the studio. "Someone said to me you're talented and I said I work hard. I need to be in the studio, it's an obsession. I get to the studio and even if I'm tired, I just love being here." Concepts can come together quickly or take several years to get exactly right.  What I found most amazing walking around her 14,000 sq. ft. studio after our interview was that she could work on multiple canvases (currently over 50) and sculptures at the same time.  There seems to be an innate intuition that guides her. 


Part of our interview dealt with Masik's series - The Forgotten.  I was very dissatisfied with what I found in the media and wanted to know more. She has sometimes been viewed as coming from privilege, but this is far from the truth.  Her beginnings were humble.  She was exposed to violence and abuse from a young age and has struggled with the concept of self-worth.  After delving into the destructive rock-n-roll lifestyle for a few years, she realized it was time to walk away. "I had been in a dark place and I had to work through all that. I had to learn to value myself."  Choices over the next three years were made that allowed her to heal body and soul, to accept that she was worthy and that she had something important to say.  Expression through art was a part of this process.  There was a defining moment when she realized, "I had a little piece of gold in my pocket because I understood how art can heal."


One day while driving, Masik saw a former friend from her rock-n-roll times working the street. "She's standing there all shrivelled up selling herself and I started crying - that could have been me." This moment, along with her personal journey, led her to create The Forgotten.  It took five years to finish the 69 large portraits - on the average 8 foot by 10 foot - that make up this collection.  During this time she took time off to create Requiem and Engagement.  They both funded The Forgotten's creation and gave her a needed diversion from the emotional toll painting each of the portraits exacted.  Coming from such an abusive childhood, she felt the pain of these women and their abandonment.  “It was difficult to face The Forgotten.  I had to face where I related to them. These women were forgotten and ignored long before they disappeared because of where they lived. They were judged as inconsequential."  When it was released she preferred not to give interviews or have pictures taken.  She wanted the series to stand on it's own - to share what needed to be said. While originally scheduled to be shown in 2011 at the Museum of Anthropology, the exhibition was later cancelled due to pressures from certain social activist groups. 


The Forgotten is now a part of a foundation with plans in the works to take it to Ottawa.  A feature film documentary following Masik's 5 year journey to create this series is due to be released in 2012.  The entire purpose behind this collection is and always has been to improve the lives of those in the community. Fund raising efforts will be a part of every show.  Included in the foundation's long-term goals is a special fund for the 77 children who are motherless to provide them opportunities and help open the doors on a better life.  Masik also currently runs an 8 week arts program for women at UGM where women are offered that "little piece of gold" for their own pocket - the knowledge that art can heal.  She will shortly have the pleasure of  announcing that this part-time course is to be come a permanent art program.

When Masik conceives a new series, it isn't with commercial success in mind, but to convey a message she feels driven to express.  The Forgotten, Requiem. Engagement, The Caged Bird and a series soon to be released call The Hunt all challenge us to look at these messages on a personal level. They are each books in a career that is sure to produce many volumes.

More information on Pamela Masik, her art series and videos of her live performances can be found at http://www.masik.ca/.

Look for an in-depth article on Masik in the upcoming May issue of Schon Magazine at http://www.schonmagazine.com/.

3 comments:

  1. I don't know if you saw this article I wrote, which is also on her site. Meeting Pamela was a deeply moving experience for me as well. I'd like to share it with you. http://www.miajohnsonwriting.com/articles/

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  2. Thanks Mia, I will check it out later today. Masik truly is unique as an artist and I came away really touched by her story and her spirit.

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