John Healey’s award winning Plastic Beach comes to the Ottawa Art Gallery
Above: Michigan Man After Arcimboldo, Lake Michigan (RIGHT) Styrofoam Cloud, Lake Ontario
By Rusel Olson
The Ottawa Art Gallery (OAG) presents an exhibition of the work of Ottawa Photographer John Healey, winner of the 2020 Project X Photography Award.
John Healey’s series Plastic Beach is a set of still life images of foraged plastic refuse discovered along the shores of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River. Healey draws attention to environmental issues. Discarded shopping bags, fragments of milk jugs, and crushed bottle caps are reanimated and show the carelessness with which the habitat home to millions of creatures has been treated. Arranged in dramatic light, the photographer positions plastic items, evidence of human pollution, as messages in a bottle washed up on shore to deliver an ominous message: warnings can no longer be ignored.
“John Healey’s powerful photographs draw attention to the plastic detritus that permeates our waters. Removing the disintegrated objects from their context on our shores, and lighting them with a chiaroscuro effect, he asks us to contemplate them in the tradition of portraiture. As such we can no longer just walk by this garbage scattered on our beaches, but are asked to think about them as the immortal permutations in our environment that they are, and to meditate on our own culpability in their creation in the first place.”
— Catherine Sinclair, Deputy Director, Chief Curator, Ottawa Art Gallery
The Project X Photography Award recognizes and celebrates the merits of a publicly presented photographic project by an Ottawa-based artist. The award recipient is selected by a jury of arts, photography, and media experts. The 2020 jury is composed of Jeff Thomas and Chantal Gervais, both established award winning photo-based artists, Sarah E.K. Smith, Assistant Professor in Communication and Media Studies at Carleton University as well as SPAO Creative Director Jonathan Hobin and Michelle Gewurtz, former senior curator at the OAG and is presented by SPAO, the OAG, and the Ottawa Arts Council.
"SPAO is extremely proud to help shine a light on Ottawa’s distinctive arts community and nurture a deserving photographic talent."
— Jonathan Hobin, SPAO Creative Director
Remunerated for his work of art, Healey received a prize of $1,000, a bursary of $1,000 for SPAO classes or programs, an associated CARFAC exhibition fee, and the opportunity to exhibit at OAG at his own accord.
"The Ottawa Arts Council is proud to be working with our partners in celebrating photographic excellence in Ottawa. John Healey's commitment to our arts community, the environment and his practice make him an ideal Project X, Photography Award recipient and ambassador for our arts community."
— Stéphane Lauzon, Administration and Communications Officer, Ottawa Arts Council
With the exhibition set to run from October 29th to November 25th 2020 down in OAG’s Sky Lounge, there’s thousands of unique and permanent artwork that have a home at the gallery. OAG provides the community with educational and public programming to further represent and encourage the growing local art development in Ottawa.
John Healey grew up along the St. Lawrence River in Brockville, Ontario. His work has been shown nationally at the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival in 2017 and 2020. His image Jug Top, from his Plastic Beach series, was selected as Honourable Mention in the 2019 Optic Nerve competition held by Blackflash magazine and was included in the recent exhibition Common Waters at Cambridge Art Galleries. Healey’s Michigan Man After Arcimboldo, also from the Plastic Beach series, was awarded the Grand Prize from Figureworks 2019. John lives and practices in Ottawa.