Martha Townsend

About the Artist

Martha Townsend was born and grew up in Ottawa, Ontario. She moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia to study art at the Nova Scotia School of Art and Design, receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1978. The following year she moved to Montreal, Quebec and continued to develop her art practice.  During that six-year period she worked at the Galerie Optica, the Saidye Bronfman Centre and she also taught in Concordia University’s Faculty of Fine Arts.

In 1991 Townsend and her family moved to New York, but they later returned to Canada and currently live in Montreal. Over the years she has continued to teach at many universities as part-time faculty, sessional instructor and visiting artist.


Martha Townsend’s sculptures and site works have been exhibited throughout Canada and Europe for over three decades. Her recent works are more  abstractImagery which departs from representational accuracy, to a variable range of possible degrees. Abstract artists select and then exaggerate or simplify the forms suggested by the world around them.  (  in form and are often related to  fabricatedIn general, to make; to create. Often more specifically, to construct or assemble something. (  circles or spherical forms. Many of her earlier works, like the  sculptureA three-dimensional work of art, or the art of making it. Such works may be carved, modeled, constructed, or cast. Sculptures can also be described as assemblage, in the round, and relief, and made in a huge variety of media. A sculptor is one who creates sculptures. (  displayed here, were rooted in  feministFeminism essentially comprises a number of social, cultural and political movements, theories and philosophies concerned with gender inequalities, and equal rights for people of all genders. Especially since the late 1960s, when the feminist art movement can be said to have emerged, women have been particularly interested in what makes them different from males — what makes women artists and their art different from male artists and their art. This has been most prominent in the United States, Britain, and Germany, although there are numerous precursors to the movement, and it has spread to many other cultures since the 1970s. Feminists point out that throughout most of recorded history males have imposed patriarchal (father-centered) social systems (in which they have dominated females). Although it is not the goal of this article to recount the development of feminist theory in full, the history of feminist art cannot be understood apart from it. Feminist theory must take into account the circumstances of most women's lives as mothers, household workers, and caregivers, in addition to the pervasive misconception that women are genetically inferior to men. Feminist art notes that significant in the dominant (meaning especially Western) culture's patriarchal heritage is the preponderance of art made by males, and for male audiences, sometimes transgressing against females. Men have maintained a studio system which has excluded women from training as artists, a gallery system that has kept them from exhibiting and selling their work, as well as from being collected by museums — albeit somewhat less in recent years than before. (  theory and the  assemblageCombining many objects and materials into a sculptural form.  of  foundAn image, material, or object, not originally intended as a work of art, that is obtained, selected, and exhibited by an artist, often without being altered in any way. The cubists, dadaists, and surrealists originated the use of found images / materials / objects. Although it can be either a natural or manufactured image / material / object, the term readymade refers only to those which were manufactured. Also known in the French, objet trouvé. (  objects. An article presented in Diagonales Montreal about these early works observes that, “Certain forms and materials are recurrent in Townsend’s work - the circle or form bearing another one in its centre, modest materials (wood, hair, leather) evocative of a certain intimacy and emotionally charged. Her investigations intertwine them with the complexity and plurality of meaning.” (Diagonales Montreal, 1992) Townsend purposefully presents an  ambiguityAny idea that is not clearly stated within an art work, leaving lots of room for interpretation  in this work as she draws attention to gender and sexuality, but leaves her viewer to draw conclusions about her meaning behind the work.

Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning