Enriching the Arts

Featured Artist: Barbara Paterson, BFA, RCA, ASA


Barbara Paterson, Famous 5 “Women Are Persons”


By any measure, Barbara Paterson is a successful artist with a thriving practice in public art. She has executed a number of high profile public commissions. Her Famous Five monument is permanently sited on Parliament Hill and in downtown Calgary, while its image was featured on the Canadian fifty dollar bill. Yet, she remains modest, perhaps not fully aware of the extent of her own success. Paterson’s love of art, the driving force of her creative life, was only fully realized when she returned to  university  as  a  mature  student.  For  the  first  time in her life, her identity was that of an artist: “Up until then, I was somebody’s daughter, somebody’s wife, somebody’s mother…. That was the identity. So being an artist was taking all that away.” Paterson models directly and spontaneously in malleable clay, which become embedded with the indelible marks of her fingers as she works. While she is grateful for the opportunity of a public sculpture commission, Paterson knows that she must negotiate a delicate balance between the demands of the patron and her own sensibilities as an artist.


Barbara Paterson, Nellie McClung




Barbara Paterson, Henrietta Muir Edwards

Q & A with the ASA

ASA: Can you tell us about your influences?
Barbara: My public monuments include tributes to men but my overriding passion lies with strong women. In my interpretive portraits, I try to look beyond the public persona of a great woman to glimpse the real human being behind it.
ASA: What would you consider your most successful body of work to date?

Barbara: I have devised secretive ways to claim my own space in all of my public monuments. For example, I have inscribed the  names  of  six  of  my grandchildren on the underside of the clothes of the Famous Five. Another telling example is found on the back of the journal held up by a jubilant Nellie McClung in the same monument. The journal itself with its triumphant headline (“Women are Persons!”) is a fiction invented by me but my mother’s wedding announcement on the back page is real and meaningful to me. ​

ASA and TREX Address

Crossroads Art Centre
#302 - 1235 26th Avenue SE
Calgary, AB T2G 1R7
ASA Phone: (403) 265-0012
TREX Phone: (403) 262-4669

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