The work of a transgender artist from PEI. will be displayed on a giant mural in downtown Charlottetown

CHARLOTTETOWN, PEI – The family of British Canadian artist Erica Rutherford from PEI. is thrilled to have her work featured on a giant mural in downtown Charlottetown.

City Council recently approved a major exemption to allow a 212 square foot mural on the south facade of the Old Triangle restaurant on Great George Street.

Rutherford, born Eric Rutherford in 1923, underwent gender reassignment surgery in 1976. The mural tells the story of the artist’s gender transformation. She died in 2008.

“I think Erica would have been thrilled,” Gail Rutherford, Erica’s longtime partner and friend, told the SaltWire Network on December 20. “I realize that (the mural) is probably going to surprise some people because it’s not the usual type of mural you would put up.”

The Scottish-born artist moved to Prince Edward Island in 1985. She has been described as a pioneer of the transgender movement.

Julia Roberts, a waitress at the Old Triangle restaurant in Charlottetown, stands beside the south facade of the building where a 212 square foot mural will be erected.  - Dave Stewart • The Guardian
Julia Roberts, a waitress at the Old Triangle restaurant in Charlottetown, stands beside the south facade of the building where a 212 square foot mural will be erected. – Dave Stewart • The Guardian

While painting the work, titled We Can’t All Be Perfect, in the mid-1970s, Erica Rutherford was said to have been in transition and experienced gender dysphoria and contemplated the perfect female form.

The installation which will go up to the Old Triangle features two women wearing black boots and one wearing red boots.

Gail Rutherford said during the creation of the piece that Erica was concerned about the image she would have presented during the gender transformation.

Gail Rutherford said that the title, We Can’t All Be Perfect, comes from a line from the 1950s film, Some Like It Hot.

“Right at the end (of the movie), one of the guys pretends to be a woman in a boat with a millionaire who proposes to him, and he says, ‘but you don’t understand, I’m a guy’, and the millionaire says : “Oh, well, we can’t all be perfect.” That always amused Erica like crazy. ”

Before Erica’s transformation, she and Gail had a daughter, Susana.

“My mom and I are very happy to see Erica’s work and her message of inclusion recognized by the City of Charlottetown,” Susana Rutherford told the SaltWire Network.

Anastasia Preston, transgender community outreach coordinator with Peers Alliance, called Erica Rutherford a pioneer in the LGBTQ + community.

“She was one of the first highly visible people in the LGBTQ + community,” said Preston, adding that the mural is a satirical twist on the subject. “It also says that not everyone is born perfect, but we all have perfect bodies.”

Gail Rutherford said she hopes the mural creates healthy conversations.

This image, released by the City of Charlottetown, shows what Erica Rutherford's mural will look like once it is placed on the south facade of the Old Triangle Restaurant on Great George Street.  - Dave Stewart • The Guardian
This image, released by the City of Charlottetown, shows what Erica Rutherford’s mural will look like once it is placed on the south facade of the Old Triangle Restaurant on Great George Street. – Dave Stewart • The Guardian

“I think it’s good to have it openly and talk about it, but I know (the mural) will probably be a bit of a headache for people. But, it is a happy message. It’s nothing scary. ”

A plaque will be placed near the artwork to educate and provide context about the artwork.

The exhibit will be funded by the Discover Charlottetown Ignition Fund.


About the artist

• Born Eric Rutherford in 1923 in Edinburgh, Scotland.

• Died in Charlottetown in 2008 at the age of 85.

• Settled in Pinette, PEI, in 1985.

• In 1987, she and her partner Gail opened an art studio and an artist’s retreat at the Pinette property.

• In 1993, Rutherford published her autobiography in which she discusses gender dysphoria.

• In 1991, she held the first engraving workshop, attracting the best artists from the country. Eventually, this led to the formation of the Printmaker’s Council of PEI

• Elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1999.

• His last show, Enigmatic Whispers, took place at the Confederation Center of the Arts in Charlottetown in 2006.

• A scholarship in his name was awarded by the UPEI.

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