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Crypt, Congregation of the Sisters of Notre-Dame, Montreal
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(b. 1955 Ottawa, ON; lives in Toronto, ON)
Crypt, Congregation of the Sisters of Notre-Dame, Montreal 1980
black and white photograph (from the suite Marguerite)
95.3 x 95.3 cm
Gift of the artist, 1995
Mount Saint Vincent University Collection
This photograph is from a series entitled Marguerite, which explores the imagined life of Marguerite Bourgeouys, a 17th-century teacher and nun who founded the Sisters of Notre-Dame. In a sense, Knight’s photographs compose a portrait of Marguerite, but one in which no face or figure appears.
Knight describes the context in which this body of work began, In 1980 I was living in Montréal. I embarked on a tour of convent buildings and discovered the crypt of the Congrégation Notre-Dame at Ville-Marie, near the corner of Décaire Boulevard and Westmount Avenue. One of the sisters took me to the low-slung, stone barn behind the motherhouse. Sister Quigley opened the door and said, ‘Here is our crypt. Don’t step off the path, the ground is unstable.’ Back in the convent, I was shown the ‘true likeness’ of Marguerite Bourgeouys...it was a death portrait by Pierre le Ber in 1700. Periodically throughout the years this paintings has been revised. The sombre and determined persona documented by Le Ber had gradually become a gentle, rosy-cheeked woman surrounded by healthy, happy children. These layered alterations were uncovered in 1963 when the painting was restored. These revisions unsettled me. I began to see how easily memory and fact can be obliterated. I began to wonder about Marguerite.
Katherine Knight is a contemporary photographer who specializes in feminist subject matter. She combines poetic texts with landscape photographs to arrive at an unusual form of portraiture.
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