(Toronto 1930 – Toronto 1998)
Reason over Passion
256.5 x 302.3 x 8 cm
National Gallery of Canada, 15924
© National Gallery of Canada. Photo: National Gallery of Canada
Created in 1968, Reason over Passion is a quilt-like work stitched with an appliqué quotation from Canada’s newly elected prime minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau. The use of a craft technique often seen as “women’s work,” the brightly coloured letters and the hearts scattered around the edges lend ambiguity to the words of the politician who advocated favouring reason over passion. Joyce Wieland at first saw Trudeau as the champion of a strong Canada, capable of countering American cultural and ideological expansion, but within a few years she came to criticize many of his decisions.
Joyce Wieland began her career in Toronto as a painter and graphic designer. Between 1962 and 1971, while living in New York with her husband, Michael Snow, she made a dozen experimental films as well as paintings, collages, assemblages, quilts and erotic drawings. As a socially and politically engaged artist, Wieland was drawn to activism, joining collective protests against the Vietnam War, espousing feminist and ecological causes and exploring the Canadian question of national identity. Some of her works reflect the influence of the Conceptual and Pop art movements of that period.
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Joyce Wieland made a second quilt, this one incorporating Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s words in French: “La raison avant la passion” ["Reason over Passion"]. With this version, she was alluding to the fact that the Liberal government placed prime importance on bilingualism. The work was presented as a gift to the Prime Minister and hung in his official residence at 24 Sussex Drive, in Ottawa. In an ironic twist, history has it that Margaret Trudeau, his wife, tore the letters from the quilt and flung them at her husband during a passionately heated argument.