To Bend & To Shape

A multimedia exhibition by Clare Samuel

White Water Gallery is excited to present To Bend & To Shape, a multimedia exhibition including photography and video by Toronto-based artist Clare Samuel, from March 23 to May 18, 2024. There will be an opening reception from 2 to 4 pm on Saturday, March 23, with an artist talk happening at 3 pm.

The photographs and videos in To Bend & To Shape make connections between the representation of women’s bodies in histories of the witch hunts, folk tales, and in contemporary cultural myths of femininity. The project was inspired by historian Silvia Federici’s framing of the witch hunts (which occurred over several centuries in Europe and its colonies) as a genocide against women, as well as intersecting identities also considered as ‘other’ such as the poor, racialized, and disabled. Federici argues that the transition to capitalism was only possible through the destruction of women’s power, confining their role to the home and the reproduction and care of the workers.

In witch lore and folktales women’s bodies have magical properties: they can fly, transform their appearance, or use their hair to sink ships. The title To Bend & To Shape references how the word ‘witch’ comes from the root word ‘wic’ meaning to bend or shape — materials, reality or consciousness. In reality women’s bodies also morph and shift, through the stages of life and in the processing of bringing life into the world. And contemporary beauty standards tell us to shape, control and transform ourselves in particular ways. Narrow cultural perspectives on femininity or beauty can also be bent and shaped, in ways that empower us.

Clare Samuel is a visual artist originally from Northern Ireland, now living in Toronto. She holds a BFA from Toronto Metropolitan University and an MFA from Concordia University. Her work focuses on connection and distances between the self and other, as well as notions of social division, borders, and belonging. Spanning mediums such as photography, video, text and installation, her projects are often a dialogue with the idea of portraiture. She has exhibited internationally, most recently at OBORO, Belfast Exposed, and VU Photo, with upcoming solo exhibitions at Public Space One (Iowa City) and PAVED Arts (Saskatoon). Clare’s practice has been supported by Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, and Toronto Arts Council. She is co-founder and co-director of Feminist Photography Network, a nexus for research on the relationship between feminism and lens-based media.