HAMILTON - An exhibition of sculptures at Hamilton's McMaster Museum of Art puts a new twist on the legend of the sasquatch.
The hairy creature is usually described as solitary and male, but Toronto-based artist Allyson Mitchell has assembled "a congregation of anatomically correct females," each one a monumental symbol of female brains, brawn and sexuality, says the southwestern Ontario museum.

"Ladies Sasquatch," opening Thursday, features six giant "women animals" accompanied by 21 little pink "familiars," said Mitchell. Viewers can enter the display and mingle with the sculptures.

"What people will see is a large platform that looks kind of like a gigantic bog lily pad, and on each of the leaves stands one giantess that is approximately 9 1/2 feet tall," said Mitchell. "They're pretty much what my scale of my body is times two."

The sasquatches are made of various components including glass eyes, fake fur and taxidermy materials.

Mitchell said she wanted to take the idea of "the wild man of the forest" and think about "the possibility of the wild women of the forest."

"The creatures are meant to be this sort of imaginary, utopian, dystopic community of lesbian, feminist, half-beast, half-women monsters," she said.

In contrast, the little pink figures represent socially acceptable ways of being feminine.

"On the one end you've got these giant monsters -- hairy, smelly, terrifying -- and on the other end of the scale you've got these tiny, sweet, cupcake pink, Martha Stewart social disasters as well."

Hair plays an important part of the exhibition, Mitchell added.

"Most high glossy pop culture images we see of women are highly estheticized. The hair has been removed, the breasts have been lifted . . . My process is a reverse air brushing. Rather than taking that stuff away, I pile it on. So instead of shaving the legs I make them crazy hairy. Instead of a Brazilian wax they get a ... reverse waxing, if you will."

Curator Carla Garnet said Mitchell "symbolizes the mythical feminine as something not easily captured or domesticated, or harnessed to sell, yet undeniably powerful and attractive."

"Ladies Sasquatch" runs until March 31. It will later tour to the Winnipeg Art Gallery, the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery and the Art Gallery of Peterborough.

Mitchell's work has been exhibited in galleries and festivals across Canada, the United States, Europe and East Asia. The self-described lesbian activist teaches cultural studies at York University in Toronto.