This April marks Gastown’s second year participating in the Capture Photography Festival.

From April 3 to 30, Torrie Groening’s intriguing photographic collage work; Alley View Bouquet, A Delivery for Mrs. Deighton will be displayed in the alley at 321 Water Street.

The images in this installation are adapted from Groening’s still life montage entitled Destiny Bouquet, in which a collection of deco-era vessels are photographed and layered to evoke limitless collecting–the vases are host to a constructed bouquet of drawn and etched flowers and objects.

Further, the format of this installation alludes to the legacy of Trompe l’œil, an artistic technique that utilizes realistic imagery to create the optical illusion that the objects exist in three dimensional space. The installation works directly with the architecture of this building in a poetic and seamless way.

For Alley View Bouquet, A Delivery for Mrs. Deighton, Groening took her inspiration from the women of Gastown’s history. Mrs. Deighton was Qwa-halia (Madeline) Deighton, a Squamish woman who married the infamous John “Gassy Jack” Deighton (for which Gastown was named) at 12-years old–30 years his junior. The Deighton family ran the Deighton Hotel on Carrall and Water Streets, which burned down in the Great Fire of Vancouver in 1886. On that historical day, people from the Squamish Nation, particularly women, spent the night rowing over 1,000 pound canoes back and forth between their home on the North Shore and what is now known as Gastown, rescuing people from the fire. Not only is Alley View Bouquet, A Delivery for Mrs. Deighton an ode to the young wife of Gassy Jack, it investigates and sheds light on the lesser known women of this local history. Kate Henderson, Curator

Above: Artist – Torrie Groening

We had a chance to speak with the artist and get to know more about her and her work in Gastown.

Tell me a little about how you got into photography, to then transition into working within the medium of drawing, painting and printmaking.

Photography was introduced into my traditional painting and printmaking work through collages and digital scanning. The layering in digital collage allowed the use of my personal archive of traditional prints, drawings, paintings and later, collections of objects and settings.

While living in San Francisco in the early 2000, I sought out Trillium Press (known for stone lithography at that point) and was introduced to the idea of using photography in high resolution scans. Trillium was attracting artists to create new layered and digitally printed works that combined different media. Holly Roberts had been at Trillium making small and riveting reduction monoprints over photographic portraits. William Wiley was making huge artist books with overlays of his handwritten text. Deborah Oropallo was exhibiting adventurous prints, against the strict ‘rules’ of a traditional print studio. I was drawn to the freedom of her work – she just used what she wanted with both new and old technology. With high-resolution digital photography and layers in Adobe Photoshop, I now had the ability to create larger scale images with unlimited layers and still use traditional drawing and painting techniques within.

I let go of printmaking slowly although I would still say I create photographic work as a painter or printmaker. With photography and digital printing, I am able to travel and set up temporary studios, work on large complex prints without an assistant printer, and with layering, I have more options to create imagery in and out of the studio, drawn or photographed.  A bonus is that my studio is now pretty much non-toxic.

Looking at your Shelf Collector Series we see a dominance of still life objects. Are you a collector of porcelain vessels and antique portrait frames?

I have collected many small groups of objects that have yet to have any starring roles in my still life photography. When choosing objects for subject of collecting, the vases won out. These Deco era vases were used for flower deliveries and are still found in thrift shops and garage sales. I was initially attracted to the eggshell glaze and the confident shape of the figurative handles –like hands on hips.

Layering and repeating the similar but mostly different objects suggest a continual state of ‘collecting’ as the viewer is directed to see repetition and comparison. The Alley View Bouquet imagery is from a composition that includes drawn flowers and scanned bugs, further adding to a staged reality.


You used to have your studio here in Gastown? What was that like?

For a few years in the nineties, I operated my printmaking studio and gallery space on Powell Street across from the Gassy Jack statue. The studio was just perfect with its high ceilings and beautiful tiled floor. I worked with many of Vancouver’s senior artists there.  During that time there were other galleries around Gastown including Monte Clark’s. I often engaged in collaborations with these artists and we shared openings together.

We once did a ridiculously popular show at my Gastown studio called Cats. Over 100 local artists were invited to participate in the show that we hoped would pay the rent and be an introduction to other works available. Eric Metcalf was convinced to join in by covering our whole gallery facade with his leopard spotting.  Jack Shadbolt provided his work titled “Solid Citizen Cat” at the last minute. Doris Shadbolt had written a forward for our catalogue, which included a cat poem by artist, David Ostrem. Gordon Smith brought in “Punk Pussy”, a fierce little painting and resident cat, Clive, was Malcolm Parry’s darling in the gossip column.

How do you feel about being a participating artist in the Capture Festival?

Capture Photography Festival has quickly become a key part of the city’s art community. We now have many museums, galleries,  and non-profit arts spaces dedicating the month of April to photography.  I actually feel some civic duty to share my work when asked. I responded to Capture curator, Kate Henderson’s request with curiosity and was a little surprised I could be so reasonable. It was an offer to exhibit in an alley after all.

I appreciated the odd but familiar space… I think I called it “the most charming alleyway in Vancouver” when I accepted the challenge and honour.


Any upcoming projects?

In April, I will have a new public art commission installed at the VGH which is also part of the Capture Photography Festival.

I am part of an exhibition that is currently showing in Houston that was part of the Houston Fotofestival. Next month I have a show at the Griffin Museum of Photography in Boston that will include some of my large collages and the series, “Out of Studio”.

Currently, I am working on a large scale photo collage. The monster 60 X 104 foot size artwork is like a big construction project – recently I added a load of bricks. And for a few minutes a day I work on some very small (6” x 5”) cut and paste collages.

This summer I’m working with a few guest artists on a Photo/monoprint Folio/Pop-up project.
Is there any advice you could pass on to emerging artists?

Get good at something, then get good at something else. Develop a confidence in yourself that supports the idea that you can make stuff out of nothing. And most importantly, keep making art even if the camera breaks, or your arm, because broke or not, you are still an artist.