It was thirty years ago when gallerist Jane Corkin first brought the work of American photographer Diane Arbus to Toronto, which was the first time the legendary rebel artist’s work was shown in Canada. Commemorating the 50th anniversary of her death, Corkin Gallery is pleased to present Arbus’ work again in the exhibition Pursuing Difference, running from June 23rd – July 24.

Arbus revolutionized portraiture. Focusing her lens on all types of people, she captured the differences that make us unique, and in doing so, defied the beauty standards of the era. Pursuing Difference is a collection of work that documents life in the 1960s in New York City’s parks.

Diane Arbus, Blonde girl, Washington Square Park, N.Y.C, 1965. Courtesy of The Estate of Diane Arbus. On view at Corkin Gallery.

“For Arbus, parks were a democratizing setting — spaces for unexpected encounters and chance interactions with a cross-section of diverse people whose bodies, genders, abilities, and behaviours didn’t necessarily conform with socially-prescribed conventions,” says Rachel Graham, Director of Corkin Gallery. “Championing people’s ‘differences’ — what she expanded upon as ‘those of birth, accident, choice, belief, predilection, inertia’ — Arbus challenged hegemonic norms of representation, thereby expanding the public’s understanding of who matters and whose stories get to be told.”

A daring person who constantly pushed society’s comfort levels, the work of Diane Arbus continues to inspire important conversations today about who gets seen, and how. Her work and approach was admired as much as it was criticized, making it ever controversial, but being likeable never diminished her pursuit. “The world can only be grasped by action, not by contemplation. The hand is the cutting edge of the mind,” said Arbus, who died by suicide in 1971.

Diane Arbus, Two friends in the park, N.Y.C, 1965. Courtesy of The Estate of Diane Arbus. On view at Corkin Gallery.

Her work continues to impact the art world, and beyond, today. 

Corkin Gallery is located at 7 Tank House Lane in Toronto’s Distillery District. The gallery is open Tues-Sat (10am-6pm) and by appointment. Head to their website for more info.