Tim Whiten (b.1941) is one of Canada’s most important and revered artists, renowned for his innovative drawings, performance installations, and evocative cultural objects using human skulls, hair, and teeth. His celebrated works engage with mysticism, ritual, alchemy, and myth to explore the depths of the human experience, inviting audiences to reflect on processes of transformation and change.


Born in a poor Black suburb near Detroit, Whiten overcame oppressive economic and social conditions to become an award-winning artist and educator. He experienced firsthand the impact of the Vietnam War, in which he served as a commissioning officer, and the violence, racial segregation, and riots at the height of the civil rights movement. Immigrating to Canada in 1968, Whiten became a founding member of York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts, where he taught for close to forty years, influencing and inspiring generations of Canadian artists.


“Over the past fifty years, Whiten has pursued an in-depth understanding of the human condition and its transformative potential, producing powerful, enigmatic objects and images that engage the spiritual imagination. His outstanding commitment to teaching, to nurturing emerging artists, and to supporting diverse artistic practices has earned him the highest regard in Canadian society.”Carolyn Bell Farrell


In Tim Whiten: Life & Work, author Carolyn Bell Farrell traces the artist’s trajectory from his earliest years growing up in Inkster, Michigan; to his extraordinary exploration of materials and philosophical frameworks; to his critical success in the art world, including winning the Gershon Iskowitz Prize in 2022 and a Governor General’s Award in Visual Art and Media Arts for Artistic Achievement in 2023.


Developed through extensive research and dialogues with the artist, his colleagues and former students, contemporary curators, and others in his circle, Bell Farrell tells the remarkable story of how Whiten’s expansive practice has altered the landscape of contemporary visual art in Canada.


About the author

Carolyn Bell Farrell is an independent curator and writer living in London, Ontario. Since 1990, she has curated over sixty exhibitions of contemporary Canadian art, working with artists Isaac Applebaum, Rafael Goldchain, Mindy Yan Miller, Ed Pien, Sarindar Dhaliwal, June Clark, Tim Whiten, Rebecca Baird, FASTWÜRMS, Blue Republic, Norman White, Lois Andison, and Cathy Daley, among others. Over the last four decades, she has worked as an educator, curator, and director in both public art galleries and artist-run centres, including Mercer Union, Koffler Gallery and, most recently, the MacLaren Art Centre in Barrie, where she was the Executive Director from 2007 to 2020.



Banner image: Tim Whiten, Siege Perilous (detail), 1988, human skulls, wood, talc, and white glue, 86.4 x 101.6 x 101.6 cm, Collection of the Art Gallery of Hamilton. Installation view from the exhibition Tim Whiten: Elemental Fire at the Art Gallery of York University (AGYU), Toronto, September 15–December 2, 2023. Photograph by Toni Hafkenscheid. Courtesy of the AGYU.


Artist photo: Tim Whiten inside Morada, 1977. Photograph by Andrew Stout. Courtesy of Tim Whiten.


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