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Exhibition of Ottawa Photographer John Healey’s Award Winning Series Plastic Beach at Ottawa Art Gallery

October 26, 2020

Press Release

OTTAWA, ON – October 26th, 2020 – The Ottawa Art Gallery (OAG), SPAO and the Ottawa Arts Council presents Project X Award: Plastic Beach by John Healey, an exhibition of the work of Ottawa Photographer John Healey, winner of the 2020 Project X Photography Award. The exhibition will run from October 29 to November 25, 2020 in OAG’s Sky Lounge.

With his series Plastic Beach, 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 and is presented by SPAO, the Ottawa Art Gallery, 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

“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

The 2020 jury was 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 Ottawa Art Gallery.

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.

Project X Award: Plastic Beach by John Healey selected images and captions:

Project X Award information:

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For media enquiries or to book an interview with artist John Healey:
Véronique Couillard
Officer, Media, Public and Francophone Relations

Listing information:
Exhibition Title: Project X Award: Plastic Beach by John Healey
Exhibition Dates: October 29 to November 25, 2020
Event: A virtual artist talk will soon be announced. Check for details.
Location: Ottawa Art Gallery, 10 Daly Avenue, 3rd floor, Sky Lounge, Ottawa, ON, K1N 0C5, CANADA
Free admission, booking required:
Gallery and OAG Shop Hours: Wednesday to Sunday, 10 AM – 6 PM

About the Ottawa Art Gallery (OAG)
OAG is Ottawa’s municipal art gallery and cultural hub. Located in Ottawa’s downtown core, the expanded Gallery is a contemporary luminous cube designed by KPMB Architects and Régis Côté et associés.
OAG receives funding from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council and the City of Ottawa.

John Healey’s Plastic Beach series was created with support from the Ontario Arts Council.

The Project X Photography Award is presented by SPAO, the OAG, and the Ottawa Arts Council.


OAG is Open from 10 AM to 6 PM Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday | from 10 AM to 9 PM on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Admission is always FREE.