September 2019

April Hickox, Fire and Butterflies, #2, 1991, black-and-white print, ed. 5/13, suite of 5; each 27 x 40 cm. Collection of the MacLaren Art Centre, Barrie. Gift of Claudia Stachelscheid, 1997. Photo: Andre Beneteau

April Hickox
Fire and Butterflies, #1-5, 1991
black-and-white print, ed. 5/13
27 x 40 cm
Collection of the MacLaren Art Centre, Barrie
Gift of Claudia Stachelscheid, 1997

April Hickox is a contemporary artist, educator and independent curator. Her lens-based work—typically photography, installation, film and video—investigates the disjunctures between personal and public spaces. Hickox works serially, creating open-ended narratives mirroring the structures of short stories or films that invoke the themes of memory, history and landscape. As a lifelong resident of the Toronto Islands, Hickox’s works reveal a profound interest in humans and their relationship to the changing topographies of the landscape. Still lives—whether they may be in a public park or in the intimacy of the home—are of particular interest to Hickox as they carry the weight of personal narratives.

Her photographic series Fire and Butterflies, #1-5 takes the form of a diary entry, narrating a metaphorical journey through disjointed snapshots. Fire and Butterflies, #1 depicts a desolate bench in a wooded area, presumably a park, where the gaze of the camera leads us towards a boardwalk that our vision cannot pursue. The bench and the boardwalk—both objects that facilitate human leisure and ease—demonstrate the ways our interventions shape the landscape. In Fire and Butterflies, #2 Hickox insinuates that historical narratives are integral to our understanding of the landscape. This is a photograph of French painter Paul Delaroche’s historical tableaux La Jeune Martyre, 1855. The tragic scene depicts the death of a female Christian martyr who was cast in the Tiber River by the Romans, likely in the 3rd Century A.D. during the persecution of Christians by Roman Emperor Diocletian. This photograph suggests that landscapes inherit a body of historical narratives and memories left by the former occupants of the land.

In Fire and Butterflies, #3 we have returned to the site of a nondescript wooded area. The lens of the camera is cast downwards, capturing the shadows cast by the trees onto the grassy carpet of weeds. Nature runs freely here, unrestricted from the dictates of contemporary landscapers. Fire and Butterflies, #4 illustrates butterflies enclosed in a mirrored cabinet, evoking comparisons with specimens found in natural history collections and the entombed, excessive displays of butterflies by British contemporary artist Damien Hirst. Displayed en masse, the scientific or artistic arrangement of entomological specimens signals the human impulse to control nature. The last photograph, Fire and Butterflies, #5 portrays an indoor fireplace, conveying the intimacy of the home. In this photographic series, Hickox layers the narrative threads of memory and history, inviting viewers to navigate the spaces between metaphor and reality.

Hickox holds a BFA from the Ontario College of Arts and Design. She has exhibited her work at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; the Art Gallery of Hamilton; and the MacLaren Art Centre, Barrie. Her works are held in the collections of the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Kingston; and the Winnipeg Art Gallery. She has contributed to the founding of various artist-run spaces and cultural organizations, including Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography, Tenth Muse and Artscape Toronto. April Hickox is an Associate Professor of Photography at the Ontario College of Art and is a resident of Wards Island, Toronto.