Doris McCarthy Gallery at University of Toronto Scarborough

for there are many stories here

they'd forgotten entirely that story and reality are one and the same.

-Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, gezhizhwazh

This exhibition engages the work of Andrea Chung, Doris McCarthy, Ana Mendieta, Shelley Niro,  Nicholas Poussin, Elizabeth Simcoe, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson and Alize Zorlutuna along with the artwork present in the Cueva de El Castillio in a conversation that spans some 40,800 years between the contemporary, historic, and prehistoric artists and writers. Their stories take the form of archive ephemera, reproductions, books and diaries, soundscape and video, and pursue self-determination as a form of resistance and remembrance. 


The exhibition itself is separated into two portions: a screening room and an expanded reading room. From the dialogue between these two portions spring the questions: What happens when we rearrange the current story of art history in favour of one that is rhizomatic, multi-generational, and feminist, one that accounts for local history as well as its place in the broader, global, narrative? When we re-examine art (hi)story through this lens, what is possible? These questions frame the exhibition for there are many stories here


1. The Expanded Reading Room

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson's book "Islands of Decolonial Love" (2013) is held open to the short retelling of gezhizhwazh. In it an aunty tells the tale to a young man. Gezhizhwazh is a character sometimes featured in Anishinaabe Wiindigo stories. Translated into English, her name means ‘to try to cut.’ [1] She is a decolonising force! In these stories, the greedy, cannibalistic beast, Wiindigo, is defeated by gezhizhwazh when she sacrifices herself to it in order to save the Anishinaabe people from Wiindigo’s wrath. [2]


DMG at University of Toronto Scarborough


Artists / 

Andrea ChungShelley NiroLeanne Betasamosake Simpson and Alize Zorlutuna.

Additional materials by and about Doris McCarthyAna Mendieta, Nicholas Poussin, Elizabeth Simcoe  and a reproduction of the prehistoric La Cueva de El Castillo.





Year / 


Publication / 


Chance the trek and download Alize Zorlutuna’s MAP (PDF, 17 MB) and SOUND WALK (MP3, 37 MB) to accompany you on your own search for Ana Mendieta’s El Laberinto de Venus in the Scarborough bluffs.

In her version, Simpson speaks to the tension between colonial, patriarchal language and one's own way of speaking, the intergenerational sharing of knowledge and reproduction of that knowledge by selectively providing translations for the Anishinaabemowin words used.  She foregrounds the possibility of change and the ability to start at the beginning— even when one is in the middle. The narrative also addresses the complexities of telling, sharing, and revisiting stories. Leanne reminds us that stories impact reality. She shows us that to make, preserve, and share stories can be an act of agency and self-determination; that to tell one’s story can be a political act and that the means and ease by which it can be accessed is of political significance.  


Doris McCarthy, the famed Canadian painter, is the namesake of the gallery. The Doris McCarthy Gallery (DMG) at the University of Toronto, Scarborough is home to her fonds. Of this ephemera are boxes upon boxes of her calendars, diaries, and sketchbooks from childhood onwards that document her daily life, keepsakes, letters, and even her taxes. It is the archived material, not her creative works that are the focus of our interest. In this exhibition, her avid self-historicizing is interpreted as a method of resistance against time and the potential of being forgotten. Though primarily a painter and less known for her writing, Doris McCarthy also wrote, not one, but three memoirs. The boxes in the archive can be viewed as chapters of her carefully cataloged life and have been moved from their storage vault and into the gallery proper...

I gratefully acknowledge the operating support from the Toronto Arts Council, with additional project support from The Jackman Humanities Institute, the University of Toronto MVS Curatorial Studies Program at the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design, and DMG.

A selection of the children’s books in the Book Nook were generously provided by Groundwood Books.

East Gallery Detail
East Gallery
East Gallery detail
East Gallery detail
East Gallery detail
East Gallery detail
East Gallery
Central Gallery
Central Gallery
West Gallery Detail
West Gallery

© 2020 Jaclyn Quaresma

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