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Amelia Douglas Gallery

Current exhibit

Las Meninas exhibit poster


Ladies-Not-Waiting: Las Meninas and CenTauress

Sculptures, Paintings & Collage by Suzy Birstein

Opening reception: Thursday, September 19, 4:30-7:30 pm
Live music, refreshments & no-host bar 

Artist's Talk: Tuesday, September 24 at 6:30 pm and Wednesday, September 25 at 12:30 pm, in the gallery. 

Exhibit runs September 19 - October 26, 2019

Suzy Birstein's work springs from her fascination with the magic and wisdom of a host of female figures from mythology, fairytale, history, and popular culture. Born of the interplay between aesthetic processes and formed intuitively using fired clay, patina, collage, and oil on canvas, Ladies-Not-Waiting comprises a charming and mysterious sisterhood inspired by Diego Velázquez’s masterpiece Las Meninas (Ladies in Waiting).
Unlike the women in Velázquez’s time, Birstein's contemporary Ladies-Not-Waiting are truly honoured. The CenTauresses are the female equivalent of ancient Greek centaurs, mythological beings who exude mischief and play, healing and mentorship. The Costumed Las Meninas are gentle women-warriors nurtured by the past, responsive to the present, and driven by a desire to shape fulfilling destinies for themselves and kindred souls. Cherishing these wise ones, Birstein amalgamates old world majesty and contemporary charisma: think Queen Nefertiti meets Carmen Miranda or Ganesha meets Lady Gaga. 
Facing both forward and backward, the Janus faced Ladies-Not-Waiting conjure the power of ancient and contemporary world cultures. They express age-old wisdom with the strength and self-determination of modern women. "Golden Las Meninas," for example, literally the golden girl, wears a helmet of golden horns and birds upon her elaborate Egyptian coif. On one side, she carries a bowl ready to receive life's offerings. On the other side is Bastet, the Egyptian Cat goddess who is protector of women's secrets, fertility, childbirth, and good health. This character is no lady-in-waiting: she becomes, along with fellow CenTauresses, her own knight in shining armour.
Such playful re-workings of Velázquez’s Las Meninas painting invigorate the sombre work with Birstein's vibrant glow, stirring the viewer's imagination as they search for clues within each piece's many references to mythology and art history. Characters have the freedom to give and receive love. Where Velázquez stands in the original, Birstein now stands with her Ladies-Not-Waiting. The viewer is central to the composition, mirrored within it—but paradoxically so is the artist, self-depicted in the very work being composed. 
This is the first installment of several reworkings of canonical self-reflexive pieces—including works by Jean Fouquet, Jan van Eyck, Édouard Manet, and Frida Kahlo—as Birstein reflects on her own evolution at this important juncture in her 30-year artistic career.

Suzy Birstein graduated with Honours from the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in 1980, majoring in ceramics and primitive art. While raising her family, she worked from her home-based studio, creating colourful, one-of-a-kind vessels with the intention to "Celebrate the Everyday, Every Day." Her latte bowls were prominently featured at Tomato Café. Her ceramics have been exhibited and sold across Canada and the USA.

In 2000, the figurative drawings on her vessels evolved into sculptures, eventually inspiring self-referential portraits in oil and collage. Birstein's drive to evolve and share has led to extensive travel in Canada, the USA, Mexico, Europe and Cambodia, where she has attended and led numerous master workshops. She has had many solo and group exhibits across Canada, the USA, Europe and Japan. Her work is published, exhibited and collected locally and internationally. 

Birstein creates and teaches from her studios in Kitsilano and 1000 Parker Street. She has taught at Arts Umbrella for 29 years. Birstein's intention is to celebrate our individuality and interconnectedness by creating images that amalgamate old world majesty with contemporary charisma. 


Monday - Friday 10:00 am -7:30 pm
Saturday 11:00 am - 4:00 pm
Sunday Closed

The gallery is closed between exhibits.

Fourth Floor North, Douglas College
700 Royal Avenue
New Westminster, BC
One block from the New Westminster Skytrain Station.

For more information, please contact the Arts Events Officer, or 604-527-5723.

Douglas College Library Digital Archive: Amelia Douglas Digital Living Memory Art gallery


Upcoming Exhibit

Collaborative Alchemy

November 1 - December 14, 2019

Works by Pierre Leichner, Edward Peck, Phyllis Schwartz

Opening reception: Friday, November 1, 4:30 – 7:30 pm
Live music, refreshments, no-host bar

Artist's Talk: Tuesday, November 5, 6:30 pm, in the gallery