The Rooms
St. John's, Newfoundland
Level 2.5 Vitrines
Best known for his drawings, paintings and prints, Don Wright also produced thousands of photographs of Newfoundland before his death in 1988. For him, the camera provided another way of looking, of being in the moment, and investigating the landscape and people’s connection to it.
The small Newfoundland community of Port Kirwan, where Wright’s studio was located, features prominently in his photographs. During the late 1970s, he documented daily life for its residents and regularly accompanied fishermen at sea. Some of these photographs were incorporated into his lithographs, but most have never been shared publicly. 
Don Wright was my grandfather and, although I never met him, his photographs provide me with a richer understanding of his life and motivations as an artist. In curating this exhibition, I explored how his photographs act as personal mementos, historical documents, source material and artwork.
As 2022 marks thirty years since the start of the cod moratorium, these images depict a way of life long gone. While they contribute to a prevailing cultural narrative of this province, they remind me of the value of community and our collective responsibility to the land.
A curatorial talk will take place in Fall 2022 and I will announce the date as soon as it is finalized. Listen to my interview with CBC about the exhibition here.
Port Kirwan, July 1977
Port Kirwan, July 1977
Tom Wright building a dory, Port Kirwan, 1980
Tom Wright building a dory, Port Kirwan, 1980
Fennelly’s trap, Port Kirwan, August 1977
Fennelly’s trap, Port Kirwan, August 1977
Cod jigging, Port Kirwan, September 1977
Cod jigging, Port Kirwan, September 1977
Cod fishing off Port Kirwan, November 1977
Cod fishing off Port Kirwan, November 1977
View from inside the government wharf building, Port Kirwan, October 1976
View from inside the government wharf building, Port Kirwan, October 1976
Construction of the community wharf, Port Kirwan, Winter 1978
Construction of the community wharf, Port Kirwan, Winter 1978
Cyril O’Neill building Don Wright’s workshop, Port Kirwan, June 1976
Cyril O’Neill building Don Wright’s workshop, Port Kirwan, June 1976
Leo Trainor gathering wood near Port Kirwan, Winter 1980
Leo Trainor gathering wood near Port Kirwan, Winter 1980
Port Kirwan, August 1977
Port Kirwan, August 1977
Don Wright (1931–1988)
Originally from Ontario, Don Wright moved with his family to Newfoundland in 1967, where he worked as an art specialist in Memorial University's Extension Services while maintaining an active teaching career and continuing to produce his own art. In 1972, he co-founded the St. Michael's Printshop—the province's first professional printmaking facility which attracted artists from around the world. Wright, a hemophiliac, contracted HIV through a contaminated blood treatment and died of AIDS-related causes in 1988. In 1990, the Memorial University Art Gallery toured a retrospective of Wright's work nationally. 

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