As we reach the milestone of 100 artists presented on our Artists You Need To Know series it’s a good time to turn the spotlight on the two artists who are Art Is Hell / AIH Studios with features about them.

This week’s Artist You Need To Know is Gabrielle de Montmollin. The images below are from her most recent body of work Weird Baby World, a site specific photo installation at the Niagara Artists Centre. (More images can be seen here). An artist feature about this exhibition was published by curated, and can be read here.


Gabrielle de Montmollin was born in Toronto. After studying political science at Carleton University in Ottawa she worked in television at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and pursued an interest in independent film-making. She moved on to still photography once she discovered it was the medium best suited to her unique vision and independent nature. For many years she worked exclusively with black and white film photographing throwaway plastic toys and dolls arranged in constructed, fantasy settings.

B.J. Navarro, writing for fotophile described Montmollin’s art in the following manner: Using plastic Barbie dolls, vegetables and toy animals, Toronto-based art photographer Gabrielle de Montmollin creates allegories of nature, womanhood and dreams. At once seductive and vaguely sinister, the images form fantasy landscapes that lead viewers to chuckle while trying to reconcile the storytelling elements they contain.


In her own words: “I am primarily a self taught artist, although years ago I took basic courses in darkroom and studio techniques. I use photography to give form to ideas and concepts from my imagination. Surrealism and humour are frequent tools I play with in my art. My preference is to make images which tell a story, or construct a narrative especially when the story is not obvious or clearly defined and the viewer can interpret it based on their own personal experience. At times, in addition to my personal imaginings, I work to find visual expression for my feelings about social justice issues and politics.”


Perhaps one of her most memorable exhibitions (see images from this series above) was titled Stephen Harper Hates Me. Listed as a “Show We Want To See” by Canadian Art Magazine, they offered the following about the significance of this body of work:”…de Montmollin goes for the jugular—as well as the jocular—in this show [which] takes the prime minister’s political decisions as a personal affront, pasting images of the politician into various studio scenes and interjecting whimsical figures and masks into press photos of him as well.” (from here)

More recently she exhibited another ‘political’ series, Hear Me Cry, at the Niagara Artists Centre in St. Catharines (see images below).


Montmollin has exhibited in solo and group exhibitions in Canada, the United States, Belgium, Italy, France and The Netherlands. She exhibited in CONTACT, Toronto’s Month of Photography Festival three times (2003, 2007, 2016). She was a member of The Red Head Gallery, an artists’ collective in Toronto from 2012 to 2016. She now lives in Welland, Ontario with artist Tony Calzetta who is the other half of their art collaboration known as ART IS HELL.


Many more images, from various series, of Gabrielle de Montmollin’s work can be seen at her own site here and there is also an extensive archive of her many past series at the CCCA artist index here.