Visual artist Madonna Limoges tumbles into the Royal Oak in the Glebe, stopping for a moment to shake off the cold and snow that has followed her through the heavy wooden doors of the Bank St pub.
Armed with several portfolios of her work and a head full of dreads, Limoges worries if she is late. She is, but no worries, anyone out on a day as cold and snowy as this with their life’s work in tow deserves a 10-minute time cushion.
And the Orleans native has a lot to share.
Limoges, a lesbian, made a name for herself by becoming one of the few female artists to be accepted – even celebrated and mentored – by Ottawa’s male-dominated graffiti art glitterati.
Starting out on darkened street corners and skate parks, Limoges’ early work was amazingly creative and expressive for compositions that were sometimes painted in only a matter of minutes.
“My first graf piece was on the train tracks,” she says with a smile.
But after working her way up from the lamp-lit streets of the east side of Ottawa to the cool blue light of some of the city’s most trendy clubs and performance spaces, such as Babylon and Helsinki, Limoges says she has seen her work evolve from bold strokes of female empowerment to exercises in human frailty.
“For me, art has become more emotional and delicate,” she explains. “And you have to treat it very delicately, because human beings are very delicate.”
Her subject matter, however, has remained a constant: women.
“Women are just inspirational for me. I’ve loved the aesthetic look of women, their curves, ever since I was young,” says Limoges. “Even when I was in art school, I had difficulty drawing men because of the straight edges. I didn’t relate to that. It wasn’t something that I could explore internally.”
Limoges has been tapped for a live art performance during Burlesque Show at SAW Gallery on Feb 12. All proceeds for the show, organized by the Femme Affinity Group Of Ottawa (FAG-O), will go to benefit the Sexual Assault Support Center Of Ottawa.
It is the first artwork the 24-year-old will create since recently returning from a 10-month trek across much of Europe and Morocco. She says the journey has prompted her to rethink the direction and purpose of her artwork.
“I was in this ‘cement syndrome’ where everything was really flashy, like neon lights. But I think I have slowed down a little bit and so I want my pieces more precise, and a more defined area as to where I am going,” says Limoges. “Before, I was more like a wild child. I still feel raw inside, but I just want to channel it better.”
She adds the journey across Europe has not only affected her outlook on art, but her outlook on life as well.
“Before I left, art was my life. I was running around trying to get my next commission, my next job, because that’s how I made my living, I was an artist,” she says. “I would still like to continue art, but I don’t feel that connected to the word graffiti, I am distant from it right now. There’s been a change.”