Symbolic portraits by York prof featured in prestigious exhibit

York visual arts professor Katherine Knight (right) is participating in an international showcase at the Centre of Photography of Lectoure in Lectoure, France. The 2005 festival titlted, L’Été photographique de Lectoure (Photographic Summer of Lectoure 2005), runs until Aug. 28.

Founded in 1992, the art centre organizes three to four exhibitions and a summer art festival annually. The festival mounts about 10 exhibitions throughout the city of Lectoure, situated in southern France near Toulouse. François Saint Pierre, the director and founder of the festival and art centre, said, “I’m interested in reviewing all types of work, as long as they are of a contemporary nature and full of personality.”

Working with filmmaker Marcia Connolly and composer Rick Sacks, Knight created an evocative video portrait of channel buoys in Caribou Harbour, located in Pictou, Nova Scotia. Her layered installation comprises video and sound projection, photographic portraits of the buoys and a photographic reproduction of a sailor’s book.

Knight uses this universal object, with its contradictory symbolism of both safety and danger, to convey the exhibition’s theme of creating bonds between countries and continents. Washed and turned by the sea, the buoy serves as a marker, literally and metaphorically.

“Responsible for heavy responsibilities, built to rebound on the surface of water, these durable beacons resist the variations of climate and time,” said Knight. “Stubborn and irreplaceable, the buoys can be counted and located, as they offer a fixed point, making it possible for navigators to know their positions.”

Right: one of the photographs featured in Katherine Knight’s portrait of channel buoys in Caribou Harbour, Nova Scotia

Knight gives an inside look into her work: “Accompanied by a book work, my installation explores the metaphoric and documentary record accumulated through travel by boat. To travel by water requires that we leave land and cast off. Ferries, ships, small boats or water taxis carry us between two distinct places. Buoys, birds and landforms all function as markers of place and time, encapsulating distance. Boat travel poignantly asserts, ‘be here now,’ yet simultaneously reflects desire and curiosity. We long to travel. We long to go elsewhere. Metaphorically, travel by water breaches time and links us historically to other states of being.”

Knight has exhibited extensively in solo and group shows across Canada and the United States. Her works are held in many public and corporate collections including the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, Banff Centre for the Arts and the Canada Council Art Bank. She was awarded the Canada Council’s Duke and Duchess of York Prize in Photography in 2000 in recognition of the excellence of her work.

Her exhibition highlights include Marguerite, which tells the story of Marguerite Bourgeoys, Canada’s first uncloistered teaching nun and founder of the Congrégation Notre-Dame, using photography and narrative to interpret history and contemporary experience, and I Became Unconscious, which combines references to an 1883 London, Ontario shipwreck and Hurricane Hazel, developing the image of water as a metaphor for unconscious choices of will.

Other recent exhibitions include Aerostat, “a portrait of air and wind” at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre (2001); Splash, a suite of silver gelatin photographs at Lee Ka-Sing Gallery in Toronto (2002-2003); and Wind and Water at the Ottawa Art Gallery (2004).

Visit the L’Été photographique de Lectoure Web site for more information about the exhibition.