Whitney Lewis-Smith

January 25, 8:30am - 10:00am EST. Hosted at Ottawa Art Gallery

part of a series on Surreal


About the speaker

When you look at the artwork of Frida Kahlo or Salvador Dalí, there’s an element of surprise. Why does it feel familiar yet also otherworldly?

Surrealists sought to break free from the shackles of the rational mind and dive into the deep end of the unconscious. The canvas, then, became a mirror for what emerged out of that process. This movement was inspired by events in the 1920s on the heels of the first world war and continues to influence artists, writers, photographers, and filmmakers. This cultural and artistic movement ushered in new techniques that helped humans expand their minds.

We couldn’t imagine a better speaker to break us out of our rational mind and into the surreal than Ottawa’s own Whitney Lewis-Smith!

Whitney 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.

Local partners

Additional details

CreativeMornings is a monthly breakfast lecture series for the creative community with chapters in nearly 200 cities around the world. Each month we host an event that is always on a Friday, always in the morning, and always free. We provide coffee, a light breakfast, and a 20-30 minute presentation from a local creative person on the global CreativeMornings theme for that month.

Event Schedule:
8:30 AM - Doors open
8:30 - 9 AM - Check in, enjoy breakfast
9:00 AM - Talk begins
9:30 AM - Q&A with speaker
9:45 AM - Audience takes the stage
10:00 AM - Off to work!

Accessibility: Venue is fully accessible. If you require any additional help or have suggestions as to how we could make our events more inclusive, please give us a shout ottawa@creativemornings.com!

Para Transpo drop-off entrance: 10 Daly Avenue, Ottawa, ON, K1N 6E2. The Daly entrance is between Waller and Nicholas on the south side. The gallery’s large glass double doors are recessed from the street.

Parking: Street metered parking is available (check hourly limits) in the nearby Sandy Hill residential area.

Other paid parking options include: Le Germain Hotel parkade (Level P1), Novotel parkade (Entrance: 3 Daly Avenue) and the Rideau Centre parkade (Entrance: 80 Nicholas Street or 5 Daly Avenue).

Public Transit: For those taking OC Transpo, get off at Mackenzie King Bridge, walk east towards Ottawa U. The gallery is on the same side of the street as the Rideau Centre mall, at the northwest corner of Mackenzie King and Waller. The gallery’s entrance is recessed from the street with an LED sign out front.

About the theme:

When you look at the artwork of Frida Kahlo or Salvador Dalí, there’s an element of surprise. Why does it feel familiar yet also otherworldly?

Surrealists sought to break free from the shackles of the rational mind and dive into the deep end of the unconscious. The canvas, then, became a mirror for what emerged out of that process. This movement was inspired by events in the 1920s on the heels of the first world war and continues to influence artists, writers, photographers, and filmmakers. This cultural and artistic movement ushered in new techniques that helped humans expand their minds.

Today, we recognize a sense of the surreal in unexpected moments in daily life. Art exhibits like Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Room are becoming readily available, encouraging people to immerse themselves in experiences that break reality. A ballet performance or a silent meditation retreat can be a dreamlike experience.

Whether we experience a surreal moment or dabble in processes like drawing without thinking or writing without self-editing, there’s something to be learned about ourselves and what lingers under the hood of our desires to keep life orderly and controlled.

Our Brussels chapter chose this month’s exploration of Surreal, Charlotte Dumortier illustrated the theme, and WordPress.com is the presenting partner.