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Women and Girls: Baring your soul through art

Local artist Marlo Ellis is creating a safe space to express yourself.
Marlo Ellis black and white
The Uncommon Women/Facebook
Sharing your stories and self-expression are two of the most powerful ways to liberate yourself. For some, those come through conversations, and for some who are unable to open up, that form of self-expression comes through art. Stories, poems, words, paint, sketches, songs, dance, you name it. For a local Thunder Bay woman, that self-expression had come from a random selfie with a few words written on it and flipped to Black & White.

Little did she know that the moment of liberation from sharing her story back in 2018 would result in countless women following suit in an effort to express themselves and share their stories through art.

An artistic expression of personal stories

Finding a safe space to express your stories could be difficult, especially for women. A space in which women can share stories without any judgement is the dealbreaker for a lot of women. In order to provide that space, Marlo Ellis, a local artist from Thunder Bay, started a private Facebook page in which women who have gone through similar and different experiences could voice their stories. As great as that initiative was, a lot of women, having gone through different types of experiences, had participated silently. A spark, unknown at the time, came when Ellis shared a selfie of herself with words written on her body flipped in Black & White, to express the pain she had undergone. Women, who participated silently earlier, saw the courage in this form of self-expression and followed suit. For Ellis, this created another euphoric moment, where she printed all of these pictures and displayed it at a gallery that would invite thousands of people to witness these women sharing their stories through art.

The gallery back in 2018 was displayed in Bay Village Coffee House in Thunder Bay, and has since been displayed in Calgary, Toronto, and several parts of Canada.

“Everyone has stories to tell and as humans we should understand that we are not the only ones experiencing something. Many of us experience something similar and everyone of us have had different experiences. I believe that the voices of these women should be heard, and everyone deserves a safe space to be heard, and that is why I started this gallery where women can express themselves and witness others’ expression. We heal ourselves and others when we share our stories. Stories are the invisible thread that holds us together,” Ellis, the brain behind this incredible space shares.

Selfies in Black & White

Selfies are the pictures you can take without a photographer. That was the idea behind selfies as the form of expression to give it a personal touch. Black & White strips the picture of all colours, make up, etc., making the expression a raw form of artistic expression. Ellis says, “everyone has a cellphone, and the selfies make this form of self-expression more personal and more raw, and since the women can take these pictures all by themselves, it makes them feel more powerful. It’s got more contrast, it’s natural, and it takes away the focus from things like colour of the lips, the skin, the make-up, and the outfit. Instead, it lights focus on the person sharing the story and the story they are sharing.”


“Best thing about this gallery is knowing the impact it’s had on the women in the pictures. They get to be seen and heard. The one-way conversations make it a very safe bubble for those in their own shell. It’s also been a healing process for those who come to the gallery. These women in the pictures have become healers and they’re surrounded by an army of women. It is very evocative,” says Ellis with pride.

This gallery in Thunder Bay has been completely funded by the local businesses owned by women in Thunder Bay. Although the funding is challenging, and Ellis is determined to get it more exposure. All proceeds from the gallery goes to the women domestic abuse shelters.

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