JJ Levine | Tapestry: Queering the Gaze


JJ Levine

May 25, 2015 – May 14, 2016

Reception: June 20, 2015, 3:00-5:00pm

JJ Levine’s practice challenges normative depictions of gender through the subversion of traditional photographic techniques. This special project uses Hamilton Artists Inc.’s external Cannon Project Wall to display three large-scale photographs (totaling 6’5″ x 29’) from Levine’s series Tapestry (2007-2014). Throughout the three images, the gender ambiguous subject of Tapestry fluidly moves from having their back directed towards the viewer to confronting them directly. Their pose and sumptuous backdrop recall classical portraiture, such as Jean-Dominique Ingres’s 19th century painting La Grande Odalisque (1814). Like this canonical image, Levine engages with notions of exoticism, subverted in this case through a dialogue of contemporary queer culture and gender representation. As the subject directs their gaze towards the viewer, they secure themselves as both an object of desire and an active participant breaking the ‘fourth wall’ in a strategy that recalls Édouard Manet’s Olympia (1863). This confrontational gaze and unapologetic pose are important markers as they counter both the patriarchal gaze and societal expectations, signifying an empowered gesture. By maintaining the ambiguity of the subject’s gender, this work questions mainstream depictions of queer and female bodies while challenging socially imposed gender expectations.

A bilingual publication featuring an exhibition essay written by Shauna Jean Doherty accompanies this installation and can be downloaded HERE.


Queering the Gaze: Subverting the Heteronorm through Contemporary Art

June 20, 1:00-3:00pm

Symposium Documentation by Chris Myhr.

In Partnership with Pride Hamilton
Featuring presentations by Sophie Hackett, JJ Levine and Alize Zorlutuna
Moderated by Ian Jarvis

The symposium, Queering the Gaze: Subverting the Heteronorm through Contemporary Art, draws from the use of the gaze in JJ Levine’s installation Tapestry as a confrontational tactic used to subvert heteronormative expectations and LGBTQ representation in visual culture. Symposium participants, Sophie Hackett, Associate Curator of Photography at the Art Gallery of Ontario, JJ Levine and interdisciplinary artist, Alize Zorlutuna have active critical practices that engage with the LGBTQ arts community, often confronting patriarchal norms through subversive techniques in their respective disciplines. Not limited to the idea of the ‘gaze,’ presentations illustrate why confrontational strategies are important, or employed, in explorations of queer visibility and the importance of these strategies as educational tools, furthering dialogue and discussion with the public.


Alone Time

Short-run exhibition coinciding with Hamilton Pride
June 17-20
Closing Reception: June 20, 3:00-5:00pm

Hamilton Artists Inc. is pleased to present a special short-run exhibition of Levine’s series Alone Time, on view throughout the duration of Hamilton Pride. Through the presentation of what appears to be couples in intimate domestic settings, Alone Time critiques the social perpetuation of gender stereotypes. On closer inspection of this series, it becomes apparent that the couples depicted are actually made up of a single subject, embodying both genders. As with much of Levine’s work in this vein, the gender of the subject is left ambiguous, challenging the normative idea that gender is stable or consistent, while carving out an important and empowering means of queer looking.

JJ Levine is a Montreal-based artist working in intimate portraiture. Most known for his series Queer Portraits, Alone Time, and Switch, Levine’s photography explores gender, sexuality, self-identity, and queer space. Levine holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography and Interdisciplinary Studies in Sexuality, and is currently pursuing a Masters in Fine Arts at Concordia University. Levine has been honoured with several portfolio awards and received grants from the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec and the Canada Council for the Arts. Levine’s work has been exhibited at galleries, art festivals, and academic conferences across Canada, the United States, and Europe. As well, Levine has guest lectured for Communications and Photography courses at Concordia University and Ottawa U and has been published in the academic journal, Photography and Culture (UK). His work has also been featured in art magazines and newspapers internationally, including Slate magazine, and The Guardian Observer. Levine’s artistic practice balances radical gender politics with a strong formal aesthetic.


This project was made possible through the generous support of the Canada Council for the Arts

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