Through the Ground Glass: Reframing William James Topley

Lori Blondeau, Chun Hua Catherine Dong, Anique Jordan, Neeko Paluzzi, Adrian Stimson, Geneviève Thauvette

Chun Hua Catherine Dong, Unmask Opera, 2023, performance photographs. Courtesy of the artist.

On view at the Ottawa Art Gallery from June 21, 2024 to February 9, 2025

Through the Ground Glass¹ is a dialogue between the work of historical Ottawa photographer William James Topley and six contemporary artists: Lori Blondeau, Chun Hua Catherine Dong, Anique Jordan, Neeko Paluzzi, Adrian Stimson and Geneviève Thauvette. These artists engage with image manipulation, hauntology, costumes and theatricality to subvert narratives and reclaim power through portraiture.

Topley’s use of the composite technique (akin to cut-and-paste collage) demonstrates photography’s ability to craft powerful narratives. Similarly, the contemporary artists in this exhibition harness the principle of this technique to resist, reconstruct and critique, in order to catalyze new realities.

Geneviève Thauvette, Les Quintuplées Dionne : Ombres [The Dionne Quintuplets: Shadows], 2009 – 2010, hand-painted digital c-print. Collection of the Ottawa Art Gallery: gift of Andrew Balfour and Barbara Steele, 2022.

Curator: Rebecca Basciano
Curatorial Assistance: Meghan Ho
Curatorial Coordination: Erin Bruce
Exhibition Design: elsonstudio
Graphic Design: Leah Ross
Technical Team: Jennifer Gilliland, Dan Austin, Rob Keefe, Marc Garland, Ryan Forget, Neil Hossack
Editors: Matt Harrison, Véronique Couillard
French Translation: Louise Saint-André

Institutional Lenders and Partners: Bytown Museum, Canadian Museum of History, Library and Archives Canada, MacKenzie Art Gallery, National Gallery of Canada

The Ottawa Art Gallery would like to acknowledge the support of the City of Ottawa, the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts.

William James Topley, Composite — Tobogganing party (Mrs. Alexander Mackenzie and daughter), c.1870s, composite photograph from glass plate negative. Library and Archives Canada, a012417


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1. In photography, the ground glass is a viewing surface at the back of a large-format camera used by the photographer to frame, compose and focus the image, which is seen upside down.