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May we suggest

News / January 10, 2019

Carrie Mae Weems Leads 2019 Contact Festival in Toronto

One of the world's largest photography festivals has released its preliminary lineup. Other features include Nadia Myre, Ayana V. Jackson and Carmen Winant
Carrie Mae Weems, <em>Untitled</em>, 2017.  Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery. Carrie Mae Weems, Untitled, 2017. Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery.

American artist Carrie Mae Weems has received a MacArthur Genius Award, the Prix de Roma and an Anonymous Was A Woman grant, among other honours. She has been called one of the radical Black women that changed the art world, as well as one of the most important image-makers of our time, with her Kitchen Table Series (1990) being a landmark work that influenced a generation.

Weems is widely admired internationally, too, including in Canada—and yet to date, her work has been exhibited very little north of the 49th parallel.

That latter absence is set to shift, thankfully, in May 2019. That’s when Toronto’s Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival, one of the world’s largest photo celebrations, will mount a spotlight on Weems’s work.

“I’ve been following her work for many years, and I’m really taken by it,” says Contact artistic director Bonnie Rubenstein. In Toronto, Weems “said she wanted to do the most significant thing possible…so we crafted this multi-site project.”

Consisting of a solo show at the Contact Gallery, a presentation of her multimedia project Heave (2018) at the Art Museum at the University of Toronto, and three major public art installations at TIFF Bell Lightbox, Metro Hall, and 460 King Street West, the Weems spotlight will feature her art at different scales and in different situations.

The Weems spotlight is just one of the highlights of the recently released preliminary lineup for Contact 2019.

Also being planned, for instance, is the first major institutional solo exhibition in Toronto of 2014 Sobey Art Award winner Nadia Myre. That exhibition will be at the Textile Museum of Canada—a less frequent venue for Contact shows, but a particularly apt institution for highlighting Myre’s multifaceted practice, which has engaged beadwork, participatory art, installation, sculpture and sewing as well as large-scale photography.

“I initially studied textiles myself,” Rubenstein explains of the venue, stating that she and Textile Museum of Canada curator Sarah Quinton “have been talking for years about projects that draw from both textiles and photography.”

Certainly a major Toronto show for Myre is overdue. Her Code Switching and Other Work (2018) was recently shown at the Glasgow International, while her Tree of Shifting Forms (2018) is now permanently installed at the Canadian Embassy in Paris.

A solo show of new work by Meryl McMaster will also be at the Ryerson Image Centre for Contact, alongside a solo show by 2018 Scotiabank Photo Award Winner Moyra Davey.

American artist Carmen Winant, whose project My Birth caused a buzz in the “New Photography” show at New York’s MoMA last year, will also be doing a public art project for Contact. But it won’t necessarily be like My Birth, which put two thousand childbirth photos on view in a MoMA hallway.

“It is brand new work,” says Rubenstein of Winant’s upcoming installation. “She has been thinking about ideas for work in public space, something to work on a large scale.”

American artist Ayana V. Jackson, in her first major Canadian project, will be installing some of her works at Campbell House. Jackson is known for projects that examine narratives of African Americans in historical and contemporary photography. Rubenstein hopes that the site, and Jackson’s project there, will prompt Canadian viewers to face their own nation’s history of slavery.

“Campbell House was built when slavery was still in existence in Canada,” explains Rubenstein. “I think many Canadians thought that Canada was a place of refuge, but slavery is a part of Canada’s history too.”

More announcements for Contact, which runs May 1 to 31 at various Toronto venues, are expected in the coming months.

Leah Sandals

Leah Sandals is a writer and editor based in Toronto. Her arts journalism has appeared in the Toronto Star, National Post and Globe and Mail, among other publications, and her creative work has been published in Prism, Room and Freefall. She can be reached via