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Toronto Artist Allyson Mitchell Brings a “Well of Forbidden Knowledge” to the AGO

(Tuesday, September 28, 2010) For the fourth installment of the AGO's ongoing Toronto Now series, local artist Allyson Mitchell transforms the Young Gallery into a provocative and fantastical lesbian feminist library with her installation A girl's journey to the well of forbidden knowledge. Mitchell's work, on view from October 2 through November 28, combines sculpture and drawing to pose questions about the history and future of lesbian and feminist texts and the relationship of the intellect to female social identity.

The installation comprises a wall papered with reproductions of drawings that Mitchell made after visiting the Lesbian Herstory Archives in Brooklyn this year. The drawings are documents of the books in the Archives' holdings, and pay homage to presses, booksellers, and libraries that have worked to share the stories, histories, and resistances of women and queer people.

The second part of the installation includes two sculptural nude figures made from papier mâché worked over store-bought mannequins, connected from their genitals to a giant brain hovering above. While alluding to the influence of the intellect on gender and sexual identity, the sculptures also rearrange assumptions about the man/brain and woman/body dichotomies.

"Allyson Mitchell's intelligence, humour, and uncompromising vision make this installation a vital addition to the evolving narrative of the Toronto Now series," says AGO associate curator of contemporary art Michelle Jacques. "Allyson has impressed the local, national, and international art communities for many years, and we're proud to offer a showcase for this richly challenging new work."

The AGO's Toronto Now series of exhibitions features the works of emerging and established Toronto artists and is located in the Young Gallery, the AGO's free, street-front gallery space. An event to celebrate Allyson Mitchell: A girl's journey into the well of forbidden knowledge will be held in the Young Gallery in mid-October.

Toronto Now is generously supported by The Contemporary Circle. Contemporary programming at the AGO is supported by the Canada Council for the Arts.


Mitchell is a self-described "maximalist" artist who explores feminist issues through a range of media including installation, film, and sculpture. Using reclaimed textile and cast-off crafts as her primary materials, she melds feminism and pop culture to play with contemporary ideas about sexuality, autobiography, and the body. She has performed extensively with fat performance troupe Pretty Porky and Pissed Off, and her work has been exhibited in galleries and festivals across Canada, the US, Europe, and Asia. She is an assistant professor at the School of Women's Studies at York University, Toronto. Mitchell is represented by Katharine Mulherin Contemporary Art Projects.


With a permanent collection of more than 79,450 works of art, the Art Gallery of Ontario is among the most distinguished art museums in North America. In 2008, with a stunning new design by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, the AGO opened its doors to the public amid international acclaim. Highlights include Galleria Italia, a gleaming showcase made of wood and glass running the length of an entire city block along the Gallery's façade; and the feature staircase, spiraling up through the roof of Walker Court and into the new contemporary galleries above. From the extensive Group of Seven collection to the dramatic new African art gallery; from the cutting-edge works in the Vivian & David Campbell Centre for Contemporary Art to Peter Paul Rubens' masterpiece The Massacre of The Innocents, a highlight of the celebrated Thomson Collection, there is truly something for everyone at the AGO.


For more images and more information contact:

Sean O'Neill, 416-979-6660 ext. 403,
Antonietta Mirabelli, 416-979-6660 ext. 454,

The Art Gallery of Ontario is funded in part by the Ontario Ministry of Culture. Additional operating support is received from the Volunteers of the AGO, the City of Toronto, the Department of Canadian Heritage, and the Canada Council for the Arts.

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