Kim Henigman Bruce entered Alberta’s entrepreneurial ranks by opening her own commercial design company and hiring a dozen employees.
She sold her successful Calgary-based business 17 years later, when she opted to become a visual artist.
Bruce figures these choices were only hers to make because she received “the gift of a college education” from her parents.
While the Cochrane resident defied the 1950s expectation for females to take on “women’s roles,” she’s dismayed that many girls and women around the globe are still being denied an education because of cultural misogyny and/or religious discrimination.
Her latest exhibit, DisBound, at the Kiwanis gallery in the Red Deer Public Library, uses the symbolism of sealed books to draw attention to this gender inequality.
The pages of knowledge that are kept out of the grasp of girls who are married off at puberty are encased in wax in Bruce’s sculptural wall hangings.
Without the benefit of these educational pages, she feels these women will not have the means to fend for themselves and their children if circumstances change and they are left without husbands due to war, widowhood, or family strife.
Bruce, who has exhibited throughout Alberta and in the U.S., makes art from books she gets from a recycling company.
She dips their pages in hot wax, then manipulates the shapes of the encaustic books, often adding symbolic objects, including human hair, pieces of wood and wire.
Some of her wax-covered creations resemble packages that can be opened with a zipper.
Others look like the ancient papyrus scrolls that once held the religious dogma still being used in some countries to keep women dependent.
Several viewers have told Bruce her encaustic books resemble the wood that paper is made from — which she thinks has a “kind of cool, full-circle” aspect.
“Books bring me peace,” she admits.
As a bibliophile in a digital world, Bruce hopes her exhibit will also make viewers think about the continuing allure of these tangible printed objects.
Older ones, with their sepia-coloured pages, bear evidence of being read by many people. Although they carry a “reliable,” set story line, it will be interpreted in personal ways by each reader.
Bruce hopes viewers of her exhibit will similarly allow their own interpretations to surface as they walk through the display.
“There’s a lot of innuendo in my work, and I hope people bring their own stories to it.”
DisBound, presented by the Red Deer Arts Council, continues to Aug. 17.