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Malinda Caron, Anna Coulombe, Jenny Francis, Carol Gregory, Christine Hammond, Jessie McComb, Debbie Ratcliffe, Alexa Vanveen, Mandy Wellman
Open Spaces features nine painters from H’Art of Ottawa—a studio that supports the creative practice of artists with developmental disabilities—responding to their choice of artworks from the Firestone Collection of Canadian Art. This exhibition offers open spaces of interpretation and emphasizes the importance of broadening the vital research function of this public art collection to reflect a wide spectrum of perspectives and interests.
Beyond the paintings they have created, these artists have played an integral role in the visual design and overall implementation of the exhibition. Works on paper, found objects, memorabilia, creative writing, and audio recordings suggest unexpected links between objects, images, memory, and fiction, while proposing personal narratives as a valid way of relating to and understanding historical works of art.
Mainstream culture imposes many labels on these nine women artists, often defining them as different from and existing outside of the dominant perceptions of normality. Like race, gender, and sexuality, ability contributes to identity and provides distinct perspectives of the human experience. Bodies and minds relate to the world in ways that are endlessly unique.
Open Spaces turns questions of perception back on the audiences and consumers of historical collections by showcasing alternative perspectives on the work of famed Canadian artists, such as A.Y. Jackson, Marian Scott, Norval Morrisseau, and Lawren Harris. It also raises questions about whose stories are told in our public galleries and museums.
This exhibition participates in the global Disability Rights Movement framework, which seeks to secure equal rights and opportunities for people with disabilities, including the right to self-determination and opportunities for cultural representation and participation.
Stephanie Nadeau, Curator of Public, Educational, and Community Programs
Ottawa Art Gallery gratefully acknowledges Lin Rowsell, Eliora Hall, Azucena Rogers, Carmel Whittle, and the H’Art of Ottawa volunteers.
The Firestone Collection of Canadian Art is a significant art collection that spans the modern period. In 1973, O.J. and Isobel Firestone donated their collection to the Ontario Heritage Foundation. In 1992, the Foundation transferred ownership to the City of Ottawa. The OAG houses and presents the collection through changing exhibitions that highlight its breadth and diversity.