Irene F. Whittome's elegant art is celebrated
It has been a season of honours for Studio Arts Professor Irene F. Whittome, an active artist with an international reputation.
Last year, she became the first woman in a decade to be awarded the Prix du Québec Paul-Émile Borduas, Quebec's most prestigious arts award.
On April 8, a reception was held in Whittome's honour by the Faculty of Fine Arts at the home of Rector Frederick Lowy and Mary Kay Lowy. About 40 people attended, including past winners of the Prix Paul-Émile Borduas with a Concordia connection, such as Guido Molinari, a former painting professor, and Michel Dallaire. Dallaire is a member of the Faculty's external advisory board, which was well represented at the event.
Whittome was also one of the finalists for the YWCA's award for Women of Distinction/Femmes de Mérite. The gala dinner presentation was held April 30 at the downtown Sheraton Centre Hotel, and Whittome, a poised, elegant woman, was joined at the dinner by several of her many friends in the local arts community.
While she didn't win (the prize in that category went to veteran Montreal ballet teacher Yvette Pauzé), it was gratifying to see her achievements honoured. Previous Concordia women who have won these awards include Études françaises Professor Maïr Verthuy (for the advancement of women, 1997), Engineering Professor Corinne Mount Pleasant-Jetté (education, 1995) and former Advisor on the Status of Women Claudie Solar (science and technology, 1995).
Whittome came to Montreal many years ago from Vancouver, and began teaching art at Concordia in 1968. In 1974, she created the innovative Open Media program, designed to accommodate undergraduate and graduate art students whose work spilled over the traditional boundaries between disciplines.
She became a full professor in 1995, and continues to teach Open Media and Painting, as well as courses in other aspects of art. However, she has just begun a two-year sabbatical that will focus on fulfilling the requirements of two major exhibitions.
Whittome has more than 35 solo exhibits behind her, as well as 130 group exhibitions held throughout Canada, Europe and the United States. A major show of her work was recently mounted at Montreal's Musée d'art contemporain, and drew favourable notice. It featured strong, spare meditations on the theme of fertility. - BB