Meet the Instagram Account Democratizing Canadian Art
"You might not know anything about art and you just like looking at aesthetically pleasing images and that's fine, that's exactly what it's there for."
Caitlyn Murphy, Ibrahim Abusitta, Shantel Miller. If you’ve never heard of any of these artists, Canadian Art Forecast is for you. If you just like looking at pretty pictures, this account is also for you. Founded by Toronto-based freelance writer Tatum Dooley (whose work has appeared in FASHION as well as Teen Vogue, Artforum and SSENSE), the account does what Instagram was born to do—present beautiful images. These images, all created by relatively-unknown Canadian artists, vary from paintings to sculpture to photography. So whether you consider yourself an art geek or not, the account (which has gained close to 4000 followers in just over six months) is an enjoyable little deep dive into Canadian art. If you like seeing your art IRL, Dooley has curated the work of seven of her favourite artists into a show that’s running at the Dianna Witte Gallery in Toronto from June 28 to July 21. Here, our conversation with Dooley about why she started the account, what she loves about its “democratic” nature, and why it pushed her to reeducate herself about art.
What made you decide to launch something like the Canadian Art Forecast?
I have a friend, Grace Eunshin Kim, who’s an amazing painter but she wasn’t getting the recognition that she deserved, both widespread recognition but also within the art world in Canada. So I thought what an easy answer to create an Instagram account which is free, and low risk. Once a day, I post artists that I love and I’m excited about and I think more people should know about.
How do you find and discover new Canadian artists? Because to post a new one every day is quite a commitment.
A lot of it is about being ingrained in the Toronto art community so I go to a lot of shows, I read a lot of reviews in magazines, but also Instagram has been an amazing tool to discover new artists—through other people posting artists they love or shows they’ve been to, the Insta Explore page, and kind of getting lost in Instagram art rabbit holes. But another way that I’ve discovered new artists is by asking painters and artists that I personally like to take over the Instagram account for a week. I’m always blown away by who they post. There’s such a sense of excitement when they post an artist that I never knew!
What’s your process when you’re deciding which artists to feature on the account?
At the beginning my process was very much akin to my personal taste so I was just posting artists that I knew and loved and that I wanted to collect and have on my walls, and that quickly ran out. I had maybe 20 artists that I had really seared in my heart, and I was like, ‘I have to branch out from my own personal taste and start to question what I consider to be good art.’ I’m not personally that knowledgeable about photography so I had to sit down and look at photographers and say ‘what do I like about this artist?’ and start to post more things in photography and sculpture and artists from the east coast and the west coast and places that were a little bit out of my comfort zone.
The account was founded as a way to expose other people to Canadian art, but it’s been a journey for you as well. What are some of the things you learned about your own taste in art over the course of the past six months?
To go back to that notion of taste, it really came from this very Western art history education where we’re taught who the Masters are, and they’re all white men. As a child I loved Van Gogh and I loved Pierre Bonnard and I still love those artists but then I realized that I was placing the same guidelines on contemporary artists so I was maybe gearing a bit towards this Western art canon. I realized I had to reeducate myself about what is considered to be good or masterful art. I had this view of art that was also rooted in colonialism, I didn’t know as much about indigenous art as I should have, and this account has really allowed me to face those blind spots that I had. The artists I love have completely changed through knowing more about the art history of different groups of people that don’t get enough recognition.
Speaking of which, I noticed that most of the artists you’ve featured so far are women. Was that a conscious decision?
I have gotten that comment before. It’s completely an unconscious decision. I am so drawn to female artists, sometimes I have to be like ‘oh I have to post a man today, I haven’t posted one in like a week.’ And in the same way when I curated this art show coming up, I reached out to artists I was really excited about and they were all women. It wasn’t on purpose, it was just genuinely who I think is making the most exciting art right now.
I also found it interesting that the captions are literally just the artist’s name and not much else — no description of their work or what drew you to the artist. What’s the reason behind that? Was it because you wanted viewers to engage with the work on a purely visual level without being fed too much information?
That’s definitely part of it but to be honest part of it was also it being low labour on my end. I knew that if I was going to keep it up on a daily basis, it had to be something that was manageable for me and being respectful of my own time. When there’s a big block of text I think maybe people tend to scroll past because they don’t have time to read but if it’s a single [line] they can just click on [the artist’s] profile and follow them. Which leads me to say that I have gotten the feedback from artists that being featured on the account has led not just to more followers, but also gallery representation and [sales] which is just insane and so exciting. It’s better than I ever thought would happen.
Going back to what you said about the big block of text precluding people from engaging, I think it’s true that art can feel really intimidating for people and sometimes they just want to feel when they look at something.
I think that, in the art world, we tend to make everything a bit more academic than it needs to be and we sometimes strip the art of the fun aspect of it, and I do think that art should be a bit more fun. And that makes it more accessible. I have an MA in literature, but sometimes I read how people write about art and I don’t understand it, despite having a [background] in art history so if I don’t understand it, who does? Who are they writing for? I really wanted this account to be so democratic, that it’s for everybody. You might not know anything about art and you just like looking at aesthetically pleasing images and that’s fine, that’s exactly what it’s there for.
You mentioned that you weren’t anticipating some of the positive consequences of the account, like artists getting gallery representation out of it. So what were you hoping to do when you set out with this account?
I don’t think I had any expectations going into it, it was almost a compulsion, like ‘I have all of these artists swimming around in my head and I want to share them with the world.’ The best case scenario was we gain some traction and a few hundred or a thousand followers, and people in other countries would see them and that’s all it was. I almost never connected the internet aspect to the real life implications because you know you kind of live online and you forget that online is real life, so it was a pleasant surprise.