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Position As Desired Featured Artist: Stacey Tyrell

Toronto photographer and visual artist Stacey Tyrell’s work is not only featured in Position As Desired / Exploring African Canadian Identity: Photographs from the Wedge Collection, but is the exhibition’s namesake. Her work (“Position As Desired”) is one of the contemporary photographic pieces presented in the exhibition, now featured at the Museum in the Ralph and Rose Chiodo Harbourside Gallery until March 30, 2013.

Tyrell is one of the emerging artists whose work is highlighted in the exhibition, documenting experiences of African Canadians. The immigration experience of Tyrell’s mother, in particular, inspired her work. Both of Stacey’s parents are from the island of Nevis in the Caribbean and her mother immigrated to Canada, via England, as an au pair in the mid-1970s.

Stacey explains that, “Growing up, I felt that there were large sections of my mother’s life before she came to Canada that I did not know about, that were represented by these photo albums that she had brought with her.” Tyrell sought to delve further into these narrative gaps and find a way to resolve them visually. The “Position As Desired” series deals with how over time memories become eroded, distorted and placed out of order, much like photographs in a family album.

Beyond family, African Canadian identity is of importance to Tyrell. For Stacey, “Being African Canadian…to me it’s an identity that is plastic and constantly evolving and absorbing new facets...”Bringing the topic to light through her work is something she feels strongly about, partly because she observes a lack of discourse within the arts and public institutions around it. This, she feels, is mirrored by a lack of public displays of artworks by Black Canadians, which wrongly gives the public the impression that our society is not as richly diverse as it is in reality.

It is this lack of representation in public exhibitions that make shows such as Position As Desired so important, in her view. For Tyrell, exhibitions that create discussion about African Canadian identity allow the public to “view African Canadians not as others, but everyday people with families and histories that may be similar in many respects to their own,” creating a dialogue on the topic of African Canadian identity.

Having her work, which is so often tied to the immigrant experience, featured at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 is “amazingly fitting.” When asked about the impact that artists like herself can have on public perception and understanding of issues of immigration and identity, Stacey responded:

“As a visual artist I am able to make an impact in a way that other forms of media cannot. Hopefully upon viewing the work in the show there will be people who may have their preconceptions changed a bit and that this in turn will prompt them to want to learn more and be more tolerant.”

You can learn more by exploring Position As Desired, on your own or through a guided tour at the Museum, Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Don’t miss hearing from Tyrell at the Museum’s Panel Discussion on African Canadian Art Practices: Photography, on Saturday, February 9 from 2 to 4 p.m. At the event, Tyrell and other artists featured in Position As Desired will speak about their personal journeys, and art and African Canadian identity. All are welcome and admission is free.

Four women sit on a brick wall, but we can only see their legs.

Stacey Tyrell, Position As Desired, 2001/2010, Digital print. © Stacey Tyrell and Dr. Kenneth Montague / The Wedge Collection


Stacey Tyrell was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. She attended the Ontario College of Art and Design where she majored in Photography. In 2003, she was chosen as one of the top emerging Canadian photographers by Gallery 44 in Toronto. Her work has appeared in such shows as “Position As Desired: Exploring African Canadian Identity” at the Royal Ontario Museum and “Photography NOW 2009” at the Center for Photography at Woodstock, New York. Her images are part of Heritage Canada’s permanent collection and have appeared in such publications as Canadian Art Magazine, Prefix Photo and Applied Arts Magazine. In 2012 she was the recipient of an Ontario Arts Council Grant for Emerging Artists.