Astarte, Manwoman’s widow shows Headbones Gallery’s Richard Fogarty the screen prints from Manwoman’s flat files in Cranbrook. (Contributed)

Okanagan gallery unveils work of artist dedicated to rehabilitating swastika

Headbones Gallery exhibit features Manwoman

Headbones Gallery is dusting off some history for its first exhibition since the start of COVID-19.

The Old Kamloops Road art gallery is presenting Manwoman: Holy Screen Time.

“The line between art and life for Manwoman was thin, brilliantly colored and drawn with expertise,” gallery owner Julie Oakes said. “He embraced his calling as an artist, an activist, a writer and – it must be said – as a performer.”

Known to dress in yellow, Manwoman (born as Patrick Charles Kemball) drove a yellow van and a yellow Cadillac convertible. He had a third eye tattooed on his forehead and his body covered in over 200 renditions of the swastika, reclaimed from Indigenous and religious cultures. He worked at banishing the stigma that the symbol had acquired since The Holocaust while maintaining to advocate against all the evil that image had born under Hitler.

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“Needless to say, he got into trouble for his views but throughout his career, he managed to impart an extreme positivity,” said Oakes, who brought Manwoman’s art to her gallery in the ’90s, where he returned for the first Headbones fashion show to model his yellow suit with flying hearts.

“His works have been in the Headbones drawers and shown in our exhibitions both here and in Toronto. This is the first time that such a quantity of his silk screen prints have been shown together and yet is not comprehensive as some editions have been sold out and are no longer available.”

One of the 67 silk screen editions exhibited will include a print of Princess Diana, standing slim and perfectly dressed in yellow. It stems from the BC Festival of the Arts in 1986, where Oakes played a psychotic baton twirler in Powerhouse Theatre’s production of Talking With…

READ MORE: COVID-19 closes curtain on Vernon theatre’s fall season

“As it happened, Manwoman was exhibiting in that festival as well,” said Oakes. “Princess Diana and Prince Charles opened the festival and at the opening ceremonies, as I talked with Manwoman, the royal couple’s secret security men removed him from the premises, suspicious of the way he looked.”

That is where the Diana art stemmed from.

Manwoman died at 74 in his home town of Cranbrook, surrounded by his works and artifacts and leaving behind children and grandchildren. Loved by many, respected and befriended by even more, he described himself as a “normal, beer guzzling, girl chasing, car-crazy Canadian youth.” Fueled by visions, inspired by religions, as creative as the hours of the day allowed – his work speaks for him now.

Flyfoot Press published three books by Manwoman that will be available at Headbones Gallery – Homesick for Eternity: Manwoman Autobiography, Gentle Swastika: Reclaiming the Innocence, and Midnight Freak Show: Poetry, Art and Dangerous Mysticism.

During the run of the exhibition, Oct. 17 to Nov. 28, the gallery is open by appointment, 12 – 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday by calling 250-542-8987. The opening reception will be held outdoors and with 10 people, masked, allowed in the gallery at a time on Saturday, Oct. 17 between noon and 5. Manwoman’s widow, Astarte (Dale Sellars), will be in attendance.

READ MORE: Okanagan artists showcase works at Vernon mall


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