A plant-filled park with a gleaming thunderhead sculpture at its centre is the winning design for a new monument in Ottawa to honour victims of its LGBTQ2+ purge. The LGBTQ2+ National Monument is a partnership between the federal government and the LGBT Purge Fund, which was created from the settlement of a class-action lawsuit against the government. That lawsuit was born from the so-called gay purge, during which several thousand Canadians were investigated, sanctioned and sometimes fired between 1955 and 1996.
The executive director of the purge fund, Michelle Douglas, announced Wednesday that Team Wreford's design won the competition. The monument will feature a mirrored thunderhead cloud inside a large column, with a stage outside for performances and protests, and space inside the thunderhead for more intimate events.
A view of the inside of the monument, which can host intimate events such as vigils. (Team Wreford)
"Our design embodies the strength, activism and hope of the LGBTQ2+ community, and is a lasting testimony to the courage and humanity of those who were harmed by the purge, homophobic and transphobic laws and norms, and Canada's colonial history," the design winners, Team Wreford, said in their pitch. "It rises up as our community has risen up to say, 'We demand change.'"
The area around the monument will feature an orchard, medicinal garden, a healing circle with stones chosen by two-spirit Indigenous elders and a path tracing LGBTQ2+ history in Canada, according to the proposal. The monument is scheduled to be completed in 2025.
Team Wreford pitched the thunderhead as a symbol of a community rising up to demand change. (Team Wreford/Government of Canada)
Team Wreford is tied to Winnipeg. Architects Public City Inc. are based there, as are visual artists Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan. Advisor Albert McLeod lives there and has family history in Manitoba's Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation and Norway House Métis community.
The monument will stand in a grassy area on the Ottawa end of the Portage Bridge, which connects Ontario and Quebec over the Ottawa River, just west of Parliament Hill. The winning design was chosen from a pool of five potential designs that had been released in November 2021 for public feedback. Besides the central thunderhead sculpture, the winning design has a path tracing LGBTQ2+ history and a healing circle made of stones chosen by two-spirit Indigenous elders. (Team Wreford/Government of Canada)
The exhibition JJ Levine: Queer Photographs invites you to discover the work of Montreal photographer JJ Levine via a selection of portraits drawn from three different series. In staged photographs of queer subjects in intimate, domestic settings, Levine questions the representation of traditional binary gender roles. Composed of 52 large format photographs, including several that have never been exhibited, the compelling exhibition is complemented by a video illustrating the artist’s creative process. Actually a retrospective of Levine’s portraiture work that he began in 2006, it borrows from the studio portrait tradition to celebrate people who self-identify as queer.
THREE PORTRAIT SERIES
Queer Portraits, started in 2006, is composed of portraits of individuals, couples and children chosen by the artist from among his queer friends. Veritable mises en scène of daily life, these photographs, usually taken in the models’ homes, aim to define the personal identity of the subjects. The artist considers this ongoing series a “life project.”
Alone Time depicts heterosexual couples sharing intimate moments, primarily in domestic settings. However, each couple is in fact composed of only one model playing both the male and female characters. To construct these portraits, the artist layers several different negatives together. This ongoing project began in 2007.
Jj Levine Queer photographs
At first glance, Switch appears to be a series of portraits of heterosexual couples dressed up for a special occasion, like a prom. However, upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that each diptych is composed of two people rather than four. Each model is dressed as a man in one photo and as a woman in the adjacent one. This project was completed in 2009.
JJ LEVINEJJ Levine is an images-based artist living and working in Tiohti:áke/Montreal known for his compelling body of work in portraiture. Levine holds a Masters of Fine Arts in Photography from Concordia University. He is currently represented by ELLEPHANT Gallery (Montreal), and his work has been exhibited at museums, galleries, and art festivals in Canada, the United States, Mexico, as well as numerous European countries. His artwork and writing have been published in academic journals, including Photography and Culture (UK). Levine’s images have also been featured in art magazines and newspapers internationally, such as CV Photo (Canada), Esse (Canada), Slate (US), The Guardian Observer (UK and US), and Society (France).Levine was a finalist for the Prix Découverte Louis Roederer in 2019 at the Rencontres d’Arles photography festival (France). In 2015, Levine self-published two artist books: Queer Portraits: 2006- 2015 and Switch. Levine’s artistic practice balances a radical queer agenda with a strong formal aesthetic.