Whitney Lewis-Smith is a Canadian photo-based artist. Her work uses a combination of historic and modern photographic processes as a means to speak on contemporary topics, most recently discussing consumerism, commodity accessibility, and globalization’s impact on the environment. By referencing dutch golden era floral tableaus, Whitney highlights the evolution of humanity’s relationship with the planet. A painting from the 17th century displaying various flora and fauna that could never have existed together has now become a reality to almost anyone at the tap of a button. Her seemingly living moving scenes are made predominantly using insects, animals, and plants that have died, but this only becomes apparent upon close inspection. The result is a subtle tension, engaging the viewer’s fascinations and fears. Lewis-Smith challenges viewers’ distance from the ecological; her pieces evoke childlike curiosity while simultaneously directing us to consider the profound environmental changes we are giving rise to.
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Lewis-Smith works predominantly in Canada. She attended the Studio Arts program at Concordia University where her focus was in painting, drawing, and sculpture. She completed her photographic education at the School of Photographic Arts: Ottawa where she is currently a full time college instructor in Studio and darkroom techniques. In 2014, Lewis-Smith was awarded a one-month production residency at the Arquetopia Foundation for the Arts in Mexico in tandem with the museum of natural history there. Her work sits in prominent private collections in Canada, the United States, England, Spain, Mexico, and Chile, as well as in the private collection of Sophie and Justin Trudeau, The Beaverbrook Art Gallery of New Brunswick, Maison Simons collection, SUMMA Contemporary Art Fair’s permanent acquisitions, and in the Ottawa City’s Public Art collections of 2011, 2013, 2014, and 2015.
Whitney Lewis-Smith is a photo-based artist who works primarily with 8x10 glass plate negatives and elaborate set building. She is currently examining Biophilia, a term coined by renowned psychologist Erich Fromm describing how humans possess an innate tendency to seek connection with nature and other forms of life. As of 2008 The United Nations says more than half of the world lives in cities and the average pre-teen recognizes more video game characters than common wildlife. With today's accelerating technological advancements Lewis-Smith has become preoccupied with the evolution of humanity’s relationship with the natural world. During a production residency at The Museum of Natural History in Puebla, Mexico she worked with specimens that became a catalyst for her recent series discussing consumerism and the environment. Drawing from the “impossible bouquet” originating in dutch golden era painting Whitney uses the photograph to document what can now be amassed in the flesh, by internet purchase or otherwise, highlighting how globalization impacts the way we interact with the world around us. By depicting scenes that will again become an impossibility Lewis-Smith asks the viewer to recognize our current time as a passing moment.
2011 Diploma, Photography, The School of Photographic Arts, Ottawa
Selected Solo Exhibitions
2021 From Here at the Threshold, Kostuik Gallery, Vancouver, BC
2019 Underbrush, Permanent Large Scale Installation for COMMON GIRL, Ottawa, ON
2018 The Impossible, St. Laurent + Hill Gallery, Ottawa ON
2018 ONTOGENY, The SPAO Centre Gallery, Ottawa ON
2018 Heloigravure, Zopilote Inc., Mexico City, Mexico
2017 TRANSFIX, St. Laurent + Hill Gallery, Ottawa ON
2014 Natural Fascinations, La Petite Mort Gallery, Ottawa ON
2011 The Amarantos, La Petite Mort Gallery, Ottawa ON
2021 Roq La Rue Gallery, Seattle, WA
2021 The Anatomoy of Oddity Studio Series Group Exhibition, Mexico City, Mexico
2021 Clavo Movimento for CDMX Art Week, Casa Versalles Cultureal Centre, Mexico City, Mexico
2021 Botanicus Group Show, Roq La Rue Gallery, Seattle, WA
2020 A New Light: Canadian Women ArtistsPresented by The Embassy of Canada in Partnership with Canada
Council for the Arts, Embassy of Canada, Washington, DC
2020 Exposicion Colectiva de Los Residenes de Cobertizo, Jilotepec, Mexico
2020 Casa Pixan for CDMX Art Week, Mexico City, Mexico
2019 TERRAMATTER, City Hall art Gallery, Ottawa ON
2019 Plastico Arqueologico, Circulo Cubano de Mexico, Mexico City, Mexico
2019 Light and Dark Drives, El Consultorio, Mexico City, Mexico
2018 VESSEL: On Gender, General Assembly Collaborative Production Space, Ottawa ON
2017 Contact Photo Festival, Arta Gallery, Toronto ON
2014 Part Stradivarius/Part Scalpel, School of Photographic Arts, Ottawa ON
2014 The Black and White Show, Cube Gallery, Ottawa ON
2014 Developpe (third Edition),National Arts Centre, Ottawa ON
2014 Emerging Artists in Public Collections, Wall Space Gallery, Ottawa ON
2014 The Infidels, La Trampa Grafica, Mexico City, Mexico
2013 Post Mortem, La Perrera Arte, Santiago, Chile
2013 The Art Zoo, Nuit Blanche, Ottawa ON
2013 Systems of Identity, Studio 66, Ottawa ON
2013 The Three Show, Exposure Gallery, Ottawa ON
2012 Developpe, National Arts Centre, Ottawa ON
2021 Este Arte Fair, Uruguay, Virtual
2020 Context, Art Miami, Virtual
2019 Expo Pixan, Bucareli 69, Mexico City, Mexico
2016 Summa Contemporary International Art Fair, Madrid, Spain
2021 Nimmo Bay Lodge, Great Bear Rainforest, Artist Residency
2020 Cobertizo International Resident by Invitation, Jilotepex, Mexico
2019 Production Residency in Colour Heliogravure, Zopilote Inc., Mexico City, Mexico
2019 Inaugural Commissions Program Selectee, The Ottawa Art Gallery, Ottawa, ON
2018 Ontario Arts Council Production Grant, Biophilia
2018 The Royal Bank of Canada’s Emerging Artist Award, Finalist
2018 Ottawa Art Gallery and SAW Gallery Production Grant
2018 Mexico City Arts Residency
2014 The Arquetopia Foundation for the Artist Residency
2013 Canadian National Magazine Awards Norminee in Portrait Photography Category
2010 Embassy of France’s Concourse Visa pour l’image: Perpignan, Finalist
From Here at the Threshold
June 10th to July 18th 2021
Two openings to meet the artist in person and hear her stories for each image:
Thursday evening, June 10th 5-8pm
Saturday afternoon, June 12th 2-5pm
ALL IMAGES CAN BE VIEWED IN PERSON OR AT WWW.KOSTUIKGALLERY.COM
Kostuik Gallery is pleased to present our first solo exhibition of 10 new photographs; by emerging Canadian artist Whitney Lewis-Smith entitled “From Here at the Threshold”.
The sets for this artist’s photographs were built using materials sustainably found, purchased, or borrowed within Mexico City during the SARS-CoV-2 lock downs. This process requires a high level of technical skill and time-consuming construction by placing one leaf at time. The details in these large format prints, some as large as 6 feet in length, are unparalleled.
“Chimera Fukinagashi Bonsai” (above image) and “Lavanda” (beautiful butterfly specimens placed in gently swaying plants) are the largest framed prints in the series measuring 5 x 6.5 feet. The images, “Lily of the Nile” and “Figs” are featured at the 1 x 1 foot size, suiting the delicacies and intimacy of each creation.
Lewis-Smith is preoccupied with our modern relationship to the natural world and uses antiquated darkroom techniques to reanimate collected specimens. Lewis-Smith draws heavily from symbolism in art history to construct and document her elaborate and imagined sets. Mysterious in their details, the images of nearly extinct animals and fragile ecosystems resemble icons of our current time slipping into history.
BIORGRAPHY Born in Ottawa, Canada, Mexico City-based artist Whitney Lewis-Smith works primarily with 8×10 glass plate negatives to document her elaborate set constructions. Having previously spent time in scientific fieldwork, her staged scenes are created with a wealth of history and cultural chronicles amassed while in the field with research teams, from local healers, and storytellers to sources from the Museum of Natural History in Mexico.
Currently, Lewis-Smith is undertaking a 6-month artist residency to produce a sight specific installation at Nimmo Bay Resort. The resort is a family owned and operated lodge in the Great Bear Rainforest of British Columbia, Canada that supports the purposeful evolution of tourism.
Collectors include: Global Affairs Canada, The Honourable Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s collection, SUMMA Art Fair Madrid, the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Maison Simon’s collection, and the Ottawa City’s Public Art collection. Lewis-Smith studied Studio Arts at Concordia University focusing in drawing and sculpture.