The Bytown Museum announces a new fall exhibition and illustrated bilingual catalogue.

Cindy Stelmackowich: Dearly Departed

October 19, 2011 to January 8, 2012
Bytown Museum, 1 Canal Lane, Ottawa

OPENING: Tuesday, October 18, 5:00 to 8:00 pm

In this solo exhibition, Ottawa artist and academic Cindy Stelmackowich examines the emotionally charged visual and written languages of 19th century memorial, mourning and bereavement objects in a series of digital prints and sculptural works. Stelmackowich's contemporary art is presented alongside a selection of historic mourning artefacts from the Bytown Museum.

During the winter of 2011, Stelmackowich completed the first collections-based artist residency at the Bytown Museum. She researched the Museum's extensive holdings and uncovered artefacts relating to mourning practices—most from the Victorian period.

During the Victorian era, symbols of mourning including hair wreaths and hair jewellery, women's black mourning clothing, accessories, bereavement prose and mourning stationery were very popular due to high mortality rates. Human hair was valued for its longevity and associative value as this quote from Godey's Ladies Book, December 1850, attests; Hair is at once the most delicate and lasting of our materials, and survives us, like love. It is so light, so gentle, so escaping from the idea of death…

The widespread cult of mourning was inspired by Queen Victoria who mourned the death of her husband, Prince Albert, for forty years. Public memorabilia such as mourning ribbons of royalty and politicians —that incorporated photographic portraits, and funeral procession photographs were also common. Judith Parker, Acting Curator says, “Cindy’s vibrant, imaginative use of hair as a sculptural medium pays tribute to hairwork made by Victorian women in memory of their loved ones. Her residency at the museum has brought new life to private and public mourning artefacts and a new understanding about mourning practices for Victorian women and men who lived in Ottawa.”

Stelmackowich's art probes 19th century mourning images and symbols through the filter of contemporary feminist thought. References to the human body as a site of fragility, mortality and remembrance are frequently found in her work. Some pieces explore woven human hair as a memory of the living body, while in others it is used as a reconfigured, symbolic sculptural material. Dearly Departed also draws attention to the rigorous mourning strictures applicable to women, but not men, and prompts us to reflect on these bereavement observations from a 21st century perspective.

Curated by Judith Parker
Acting Curator, Bytown Museum

Sunday, November 6th, 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm_Judith Parker, Acting Curator, will give a talk in the exhibition
Free admission
Presented in English with bilingual discussion

Saturday, November 19th, 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm
Cindy Stelmackowich will give an ARTIST'S TALK
Free admission

HAIRY WORKSHOP In collaboration with the Ottawa Art Gallery
Saturday, November 19th, Noon to 4:00 pm
Curious about how the Victorians made objects with hair? Join us for a hands-on workshop exploring the creation of small sculptural pieces inspired by the exhibition. We'll use wire, yarn, and, yes of course, synthetic hair. Included with Museum admission.

Details about special fall programming including the Hairy Workshop and tours can be found at

Artist's Biography
Cindy Stelmackowich is an artist and academic who lives in Ottawa. She studied fine art and art history in Saskatoon and received a BFA and BA from the University of Saskatchewan. During her studies she worked as an historical interpreter at the Motherwell Homestead National Historic Site (Saskatchewan) operated by Parks Canada.

Moving to Ottawa, Ms. Stelmackowich completed an MA in art history at Carleton University. In 2010 she obtained a PhD in the History and Theory of Art from Binghamton University, New York. She teaches art history and theory at Carleton University, Ottawa.

Ms. Stelmackowich has participated in solo and group exhibitions across Canada and in the United States including; the Ottawa Art Gallery, Gallery 101, the 2008, 2009, 2010 Toronto International Art Fairs, Kristi Engle Gallery (Los Angeles), Galerie de l'UQAM, A Space Gallery, the Robert McLaughlin Gallery and Mount Saint Vincent University Art Gallery. Her art can be found in the collections of the Canada Council Art Bank, City of Ottawa, Ottawa Art Gallery, and York University. Ms. Stelmackowich is represented by Patrick Mikhail Gallery, Ottawa.

In 2009, Ms. Stelmackowich received the Mid-Career Artist Award from the Council for the Arts in Ottawa (CAO). She has also received grants from the Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council and the City of Ottawa.

Curator's Biography
Judith Parker is acting curator at the Bytown Museum. In 2010, she curated Many Guises: Contemporary Self-Portraits, featuring six contemporary Ottawa photographers, accompanied by an exhibition catalogue, held in conjunction with Ottawa Photography Festival X. In 2011 she was the curatorial coordinator and general catalogue editor for Hidden Treasures from the Bytown Museum, an exhibition presenting 40 fine art artefacts from the collection.

Her background includes twenty years as an art museum educator at the National Gallery of Canada, experience as an arts funding officer at the City of Ottawa, and as an independent planner of social history exhibits. Her reviews and articles are found in contemporary art magazines, the OMA's 2004 colloquium proceedings, and the CMA's Muse (Spring 2011). She dreams about the possibilities for contemporary, interdisciplinary artistic interpretation of historic material culture.

About the Bytown Museum
Located in the heart downtown Ottawa, the Bytown Museum explores the stories of an evolving city and its residents from its early days as Bytown to present day Ottawa. The Museum is located at the Rideau Canal, Ottawa locks between Parliament Hill and the Fairmont Château Laurier hotel—one of the most picturesque sites in the city. For more information, visit

Admission Price
Regular museum admission: $6 for adults, $4 for seniors and students (age 13 to 18 or with valid student ID), $3 for children between 5 and 12, and $15 for families (two adults and three children). Admission is free of charge for children under 5 and for members of the Bytown Museum.

Winter Hours:
11 October, 2011 – 19 May, 2012
Tuesday to Sunday, from 11 am to 4 pm
Free admission on the first Sunday of each month

For more information and sample photographs, please contact:
Francesco Corsaro
Director of Development | Bytown Museum
T 613-234-4570 x 225