DAWSON CREEK, B.C. – Grande Prairie artist Candace Sanderson is lending her talents to the Dawson Creek Art Gallery this month, loaning out pieces from her exhibit ‘A Common Reality’, which examines the visible and invisible structures which hold women back.

Sanderson says she owes her independent and tradition-breaking personality to her mother and grandfather, with family having encouraged her to pursue her passions.

“My mother was a quiet feminist, and being the youngest in our family, she always encouraged me to look for other alternatives to life from what’s always expected of girls, which is to get married and have children of your own,” she says. “She always encouraged that it wasn’t a requirement and that there are so many other things that I could pursue.”

Sanderson says the goal of the exhibit was always to raise awareness and close the gap on gender inequality. It first launched in 2019 at the Art Gallery of Grande Prairie.

“For a topic like this, when you’re talking about gender bias and you’re talking about equality, I think it’s really important that you understand the subject and that for myself that I’m very clear about what it is that I want to say.”

“Because people feel so strongly about it one way or the other, every second or third conversation is me defending my point of view or it turns into an argument.”

Two striking pieces make up the core of the exhibit – a series of interlocking female dolls, braided into a daisy chain net, and large wooden Czech hedgehogs, carved by Sanderson, who’s a well-known woodworker.

The hedgehogs are a World War II invention, originally built as barricades at beaches in Normandy, used to slow down the advancement of enemy troops, and serve as metaphors in the exhibit – representing the barricades that women face on a daily basis.

Sanderson’s grandfather and great uncle both served on the front lines in Normandy, noting the two struggled with PTSD long after the conflict ended.

“It changes who they are, and how can it not? That was definitely part of my inspiration, was my relationship with my grandfather,” she says, noting her grandfather passed away nearly 15 years ago.

“I always felt that had my grandfather been born in our generation, he would have been a very different man, if he hadn’t been forced to be that ‘masculine’ man, and follow all those specific rules that you’re supposed to, I think he would have been a much happier person if he could have led a creative life.”

The exhibit is one of three new to the DC gallery this month, on display until Feb. 25.