Sheilagh O’Leary: A Sea Change

Display Date: 
February 10 - April 28, 2024
Level 3 Art Gallery

In this tribute to three generations of women in her family, Sheilagh O'Leary explores cultural erasure and resurgence from a feminist, matrilineal standpoint—drawing inspiration from her mother's experiences as a French-Mi'kmaw woman in Newfoundland in the 1930s-50s. Analogue (non-digital) portraits and cyanotypes blend the body with elements of the sea to symbolize life, renewal, and change. Throughout, the work reveals complex interactions between embodiment and absence, power dynamics and identity, as well as the key role of cultural narratives in responsible environmental stewardship.

Join us for the opening reception on February 9 at 7 pm! 

About the Artist

Sheilagh O’Leary, a renowned photographer/filmmaker and activist from St. John’s, Newfoundland (Ktaqmkuk), has over 30 years of experience in exhibitions, teaching and community engagement. Her work explores her Irish/Indigenous roots, focusing on cultural ties, identity and nature. Her impactful collections of black and white nudes and portraits intricately connect subjects to Newfoundland's landscape. O’Leary authored “Human Natured: Newfoundland Nudes” (2007), covering nearly two decades of nude photography, and co-authored "Island Maid: Voices of Outport Women" (2010), documenting rural women’s lives before the cod moratorium. Elected City Councilor in 2009, she serves as Deputy Mayor of St. John’s, championing cultural diversity, environmental care, and thriving communities. She has a Master of Fine Art at Memorial University, Grenfell Campus in Corner Brook.

Image: Sheilagh O’Leary. A Sea Change (2023), detail. Mixed materials. Image courtesy of the artist.