Jazmin Sasky wanted to celebrate her 10th anniversary of living in Canada by honouring the women she’d met in the Jewish community.
After interviewing 40 women, Sasky painted 14 large portraits that encapsulated the women’s personal stories. The results can be see in a new exhibit called Honouring Women: Every Woman, a Life Story to Tell, which runs at the Sidney and Gertrude Zack Gallery at the Jewish Community Centre until Nov. 10.
For the exhibit, Sasky interviewed and painted women she knew and women she didn’t know to encompass such themes as motherhood, sisterhood, friendship and diversity within the Jewish community.
For one portrait, Sasky painted sisters who were genetically predisposed to breast cancer who chose to have double mastectomies and suffered through multiple surgeries to dramatically reduce their risks. Sasky emphasized their flat chests, which are usually curved with prosthetic breasts, styled their tops like bandages and depicted the pair as strong, proud and feminine with her signature flowers in their hair.
She interviewed four divorced women in their 40s and asked them what colour they’d choose for a second wedding dress. “The first wedding you are dressed in white, you are young and naïve and they all said no white anymore,” Sasky said. “It should be cream, it should be champagne, a colour more used, not that pure.”
She also painted a woman in the Jewish community who had two young children and had died of cancer, asking each of her family members to choose a colour that represented her.
“They all picked similar colours, turquoise, blue, emerald green, very, very similar colours… so of course the painting is with these colours,” Sasksy said. “The mother of this young woman, she also said hot pink and I decided to add a hot pink flower on her head.”
Sasky paints with a colourful and whimsical style, incorporating gold and silver leaves, glitter and backgrounds inspired by textiles and patterns she’s found on Pinterest.
“They’re not aimed to be specific to the appearance of anybody,” she said. “It’s my interpretation of who they are, the energy, the aura. Even if they were blond, they will be black hair if I thought they should be black hair. It’s just what they said to me or what they share with me that is in the painting.”
Sasky, who was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and lived with her husband in Israel for 15 years before coming to Canada, has created printed guides for her show that outline her subject’s stories, her insights and artistic process.
“I need to put meaning in everything so I didn’t just want to leave it empty,” she said. “Because there’s so much thought behind it I thought it would be fascinating to read and just to interact with the painting. It’s more approachable that way, not just the art, but there’s a story.”
With Honouring Women, Sasky seeks to draw connections and celebrate women’s stories in the context of a specific cultural and religious community and to touch everyone with universal themes.
A portion of the proceeds of the show will benefit the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, an organization that supports programs for seniors, children and families.
Sasky envisions celebrating other communities in Vancouver, across Canada and the world to connect people through their stories to their shared humanity.
The gallery is open daily except Saturday at 950 West 41st Ave.