Artist Margaret Sutherland's exhibition at Studio 22 depicts frustration with political landscape

OCTOBER 29, 2015 VISHMAYAA JEYAMOORTHY
Queen's Journal OCTOBER 29, 2015 VISHMAYAA JEYAMOORTHY

Who would paint a nude portrait of Stephen Harper? Kingston artist Margaret Sutherland would.

Sutherland is best known for her portrait of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Emperor Haute Couture, which shows Harper reclining on a sofa nude with a dog, surrounded by faceless men in suits. One woman in the portrait hands him what looks like a Tim Hortons cup on a silver platter.

She does a lot more than paint naked leaders however, as evidenced by her new gallery show, Roller Derby, Politics and Other Blood Sports. The show, hosted at Studio 22, opens Oct. 27.

The exhibition features oil paintings such as Peace, a portrait depicting Prime Minister-delegate Justin Trudeau, NDP leader Tom Mulcair, and Stephen Harper fighting as Parliament burned around them. Sutherland said the massive response to Emperor Haute Couture had been unexpected.

"When you hit a nerve it's both gratifying, but it cuts both ways. You're suddenly being noticed and scrutinized," she said.

"You don't always get the best response, which is probably a good thing because they say there's no such thing as bad publicity, but it means you're actually stating something important."

The portrait was meant to show her "fear and apprehension" about the direction that Canadian politics had headed, she said.

Sutherland has always painted portraits, but they weren't always so politically charged.
Margaret Sutherland