Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Influences: Colette Whiten

Photo: Canada Council for the Arts/ Martin Lipman
Colette Whiten was my teacher and advisor during my time at the Ontario College of Art (now OCAD University). In 2013 she was awarded the Governor-General's Award for Visual and Media Art, the top award for Canadian artists. If you click on this link, be sure to watch the video so you can hear her lovely  gentle voice. That voice, and her beauty, still draw me in, only to have my jaw drop yet again at the astounding intelligence and power of her work.
Whiten's early work involved body casts from life. The massive forms she built to allow the models to hold the pose for the time it took to do the cast, and the documentation, became as important as the finished work.
The negative space of the forms themselves become three dimensional with gallery lighting.
Beads take the place of stitches in these larger-scale renditions of news photographs.
Whiten collaborated with her husband Paul Kipps to create this archway for the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. She was working on the plaster casts for the figures when our class visited her studio in 1987.
She was a great teacher - thoughtful, generous, inspiring, honest, tough. I owe a great deal to her guidance, and can probably trace my decision to return to art school after a career in graphic design to seeing her petit point images, which marked a huge shift from the monumental sculptures for which she was known. She created a sensation with the tiny, intimate hand stitched images. I knew I wanted to study with her, but oddly enough, didn't begin working with stitch until several years after I finished school. I think the grounding in sculpture that her classes gave me contribute greatly to my work today.
Installation view of Whiten's installation at Carman Lamanna Gallery, Toronto, 1987
Gorbachev (detail) petit point, 1987
Many more images from Whiten's impressive body of work can be seen at CCCA Canadian Artist Database where the above images were found. She is represented by Susan Hobbs Gallery.

2 comments:

  1. Wow Heather. You are indeed fortunate to have studied with Colette Whitten. This post is an affirmation of intelligence.

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  2. wonderfully provocative art in such a gentle strong feminine feminist way, thank you for the links
    BTW we must have gone back to art school as mature age students around the same time, I finally got my degree visual arts in 1989 after dropping out in 1973 & then again in 1976... (it was the 70's after all & we were all dropping out to make a new dream)

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