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Artist's project honours grandmothers

Airdrie painter Veronica Funk has embarked on a year-long project to paint a grandmother's portrait every week in 2020.

Funk said the 52-week initiative has been a way to learn about other people’s family histories and what their grandmothers accomplished.

"Even though we sometimes hear snippets of family history, it can sometimes be really hard to get the actual information together," she said. "At the same token, I’m hearing from people that they have been talking to their grandmothers, their mothers and other relatives, and they’re getting information and finding all these interesting things about what their grandmothers have overcome."

In devising project, Funk said she started to think of the progress of feminism and the trail-blazers who have brought the women's rights movement to where it is today.

"I am a mother of two young women – my daughters are 20 and 25 – and I started thinking about how far we’ve come," she said. "We still have so far to go for equality, equal rights, equal treatment and respect of women, but I was thinking how far we have come.

"I felt I really wanted to focus on being grateful for the women who came before us."

With those sentiments in mind, Funk put out a request on social media in October 2019, asking her friends for photographs of their grandmothers, along with a brief story or memory.

Since January, she has been painting the portraits two at a time, sharing her completed works on social media and her website.

"It’s been absolutely heart-warming, and especially with what is happening right now [with the virus], it makes me emotional, because we’re losing our seniors," she said. "I felt it means even more today than when I started this project in January."

One of the project’s biggest challenges, she said, has been "doing the women justice."

"For other people, it’s maybe been hard to get photos together, especially now, since we can’t go to grandma’s house or mom’s house to get those images," she said.

Funk has completed 18 portraits so far. When all 52 are complete, she said she aims to compile them in a book that will also include the stories and memories that were submitted.

Funk said she recently received her final photo submission.

"To me, it’s a collaborative project," she said. "Even though I’m in isolation at home, I still get to work very closely with other people on this project through our virtual world. "

To see Funk’s progress, visit or follow her on Facebook or Instagram.

"I’m so grateful for the people who are willing to share these personal stories and photographs," she said. "It’s nice to be able to keep these stories alive for people."

Funk is no stranger to 52-week projects, having done five or six throughout her artistic career. A few years ago, she completed the Heroes project, in which she painted weekly portraits of famous women throughout history who have inspired her.

Following the United States presidential election in 2016, she completed a 100-day initiative titled Nasty Women – a play on President Donald Trump’s insult of Hillary Clinton. Every day for 100 days, she painted a portrait of a friend, using acrylic paints on stretched canvas.

"I wanted to put a positive spin on a negative thing, so I put a call-out on social media, asking women I knew if they wanted to be a part of my Nasty Women project," she said. "That was a really wonderful experience. It was difficult to paint people I knew, and I was hoping they would feel honoured by my portrayal of them."

Scott Strasser,
Follow me on Twitter @scottstrasser19

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