“Victory” was originally produced for a Toronto high school art show on the theme of “Girlhood”. The intention of the piece was to explore what it means to be proud of my Russian-Jewish identity, to embrace my body in all of the ways that it is imperfect, and to hold my head up high despite every way the world teaches me to feel shame. In the painting I am tattooing the Russian word for victory across my stomach, a word that resonates with me as I come to understand what it means to be proud – not in a catchy feminist slogan kind of way – but in a way that connects me to my familial history as well as to our collective struggle for liberation.
Unfortunately, my piece was pulled from the art show at my school as the teacher curating the show felt the piece depicted self harm. How strange it was to produce a deeply personal work on the theme of feminism only to be told that my perspective and experience wasn’t palatable enough to be shown in a high school. Isn’t that the most disappointing aspect of mainstream empowerment politics? That even when we are being asked to resist we have to make sure what we say and do is “pretty” enough for popular consumption.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Levia McFarlane is a Grade 10 student at Etobicoke School of the Arts in the Contemporary Arts Program in Toronto. Levia discovered oil painting at a young age and has been passionately and relentlessly learning ways to improve her skills and learn from other artists. While still very much a student, she had her first group exhibition at Northern Contemporary Gallery in 2022 and is excited to find new audiences to share her work.
© Levia McFarlane