By Marianne Fedunkiw
Ask about his dream job, without hesitation Caeden Wigston answers, “Working as a curator at an institution or gallery that values photography.”
The winner of the Foundation’s 2022 Jack Gilbert Image Arts Award recently completed an eight-month contract at Toronto’s Gallery 44 as a curatorial assistant working alongside Lillian O’Brien Davis, curator of exhibitions and public programs. “I was in the early stages of working with artist Colin Miner on his exhibition ‘The Clearest Image’,” Wigston said. “I’m not sure what’s next. I’m looking into positions in arts administration and curation.”
Wigston was born in Orillia, grew up in Innisfil, Ontario and attended Bear Creek Secondary School in Barrie. “I took as many arts classes as possible including photography, digital arts, and visual arts,” he said. “There was a program called ‘Shazam’ which included arts-focused opportunities for students to explore arts outside the school. These could be field trips and group activities. We got to come to Toronto a lot which was exciting to see things like the CONTACT Photography Festival.” This was particularly important to Wigston because of the wider scope of artistic offerings in a major metropolis. “It was nice to leave my small town and come to the city. There are not many opportunities for emerging artists in small towns.”
This made Wigston’s choice of university a natural one – he chose Ryerson University’s School of Image Arts, as it was then known. He graduated last year. “My thesis was a challenge to be sure,” he said. “It’s the pinnacle of your university degree with the pressure to be the best project you’ve done yet. In terms of scale and work, it was the most challenging and rewarding.”
Most of his earlier work was unpacking his identity as a queer person growing up in the church. “There were elements of that in my thesis project as well as a lot of family history but I also branched out to include other peoples’ stories and where they were coming from,” he said.
“I love making art but I really love to work with other artists here in Toronto.”
In late April, he had a photo book on view at a table of Toronto Metropolitan University students’ work in the Photobook Fair, a 2023 CONTACT event at the Stephen Bulger Gallery in Toronto.
“One artist I’ve been following, who influenced my thesis, is rydel cerezo, a Philipino Canadian based in Vancouver, who is also queer and grew up Catholic. We both work in a soft tonal range, with a soft way of approaching our subject matter. Interestingly, he’s only a couple of years older than me. I have a lot of respect for his practice and work.”
Wigston comes from a large family – he is the second youngest of nine siblings. Although most of them are musically inclined, he is the only one making a career in the visual arts. His maternal grandfather was really interested in photography, but as a hobby not as a profession. “He gifted me one of his old Agfa cameras,” he said. “I spent a lot of time going through his old slides. He loved to travel so there were many photos.”
Although over the past year Wigston took a break from creating new work, he looks forward to a creative future. He is not sure what is next professionally. “I love making art but I really love to work with other artists here in Toronto.” Right now he is freelancing while looking for a full-time position. “My goal for next year is to have a new body of work to show either inside or outside of CONTACT.”
PHOTO ABOVE: Caeden Wigston with Foundation director Judith Davidson-Palmer. Credit: Image Arts, TMU