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The Art Connoisseur: Tatum Dooley


"I love art because it helps me understand the world."



Tatum Dooley is a Toronto-based writer and art curator. She's written for publications like ArtForum, Canadian Art, Lapham's Quarterly and Teen Vogue. We first met last summer. I cold emailed Tatum after seeing her curator's talk for a show she put together at Diana Witte Gallery, called 'Summer Forecast'. I was instantly charmed by her energetic presence and point of view. Tatum exudes an easy confidence that comes through in her work and projects. It's infectious in the best way; I always feel a renewed fervour for tackling my to-do list after seeing her. 

In addition to writing and curating, Tatum also runs an instagram account called @cdnartforecast, which is where you can see what's on her radar and artists she's excited about. Her more recent project, along with friend and artist Margaux Smith called @cdnart_in_isolation, focuses on bringing artwork to seniors in long term centres during social isolation. 


Here's Tatum in her own words... 

I’m a writer and curator from Toronto. I write mostly about art and culture (film, fashion, architecture, the internet etc) for places like Artforum, Garage Magazine, the Globe & Mail, Lapham’s Quarterly, the Walrus, Vogue UK. I also run the Instagram account @cdnartforecast where I post an emerging or mid-career artist each day. Last year I curated my first show at Dianna Witte Gallery, followed by another exhibition at General Hardware. I feel my career is curving towards the art world and away from writing, though I think writing will always be the foundation of my practice. 

Personally, I’m someone who loves to read and has a mischievous cat named Raffi. I really value the relationships in my life, having a great group of friends has allowed me to thrive professionally and personally. 



Maximalism vs. Minimalism

The line between maximalism and minimalism, for me, is thin. If a painting has a single black stroke on a white canvas, there’s still an excess of space that connotes overabundance. Work packed with visual text can be minimalist when adhering to a repetitive pattern, it’s all about the information our brains have to process. Anyway, I’m probably a maximalist in my home. Every surface is covered with books and notes, I’m pretty messy. Also in fashion, I love layering.



Your Aesthetic as a Movie

This was such a tricky question. I wouldn’t be presumptuous enough to compare myself to my favourite films. I think I’d go with Valley of the Dolls: it’s equally campy and glamourous. I love the 60s outfits. I’m drawn to the complicated female characters and friendships the film portrays. Also, there’s a great surreal scene that features Henry Moore’s sculptures.

Career Path

I started publishing work during my Masters at Ryerson (Literatures of Modernity). I was working on a thesis that explored the way we move through art galleries, looking at art and being policed to follow unwritten rules of decorum. So I guess art was on my mind when I started out. I’ve always loved art, but didn’t know you could write about art as a career until I was in my 20s. I feel very lucky.


 On Process (writing vs. curating)

With both, the approach hinges on interdisciplinary studies. Reading, watching films, looking at art, finding new artists on Instagram. From there, I start to form ideas and connections between work. There’s always a time when something “clicks”, I understand why I’ve connected something together. I’m always chasing that connection to texts that previously seem unrelated. I like that element of surprise.

On Curating

I find there’s a benefit to having less work and artists so that the work can breathe and the viewer can really look. It has to be properly lit. Essentially, ensuring that artists’ work is seen in optimal conditions. I feel like making sure of that is respecting both the artist and viewer. 

Start planning months before you think you need to. Be firm about deadlines. Include emerging artists.

Importance of seeing art in person

There’s an energy to art that can’t be translated online. When you see art in person there’s a greater potential for a conversation about the work with another person (either the gallery owner, security guard, friend), which can completely shift your perspective of the work. That’s really exciting to me.  


On Owning Art

So much of the art I have has been gifted to me, but the first thing I bought was a painting from Misbah Ahmed. It’s two women painted on vellum, there’s a whimsical and naive quality to it that makes it really fresh, I’ve never tired of it. When I look at my collection, the connecting thread is I have a lot of work that depicts women. At the moment I’m looking a lot at two portraits I have by Margaux Smith. There’s 1000 ways to look at them, every time I do I see something new.


On the Power of Art

I wrote this for the exhibition text for the show I curated in January at General Hardware, it still feels like the best explanation I have for what art means to me: 

'I’ve been thinking lately about the thin line between permanence and ephemera. Plants, flowers, performance, feelings, and life are all in a constant state of decay, only lasting a short period of time before they’re gone. The only things I can think of as permanent are plastics, literature, and art. The latter tries to grasp onto the concept of decay, translating the ephemeral into something permanent. As the world changes around me—people die unexpectedly, relationships fade, a favourite piece of jewelry is misplaced—I take comfort in art’s ability to anchor me in a world that doesn’t make sense.' full text.


Art in Toronto

There are so many great places to see art in the city: AGO, Gardiner Museum, Clint Roenish, Franz Kaka, General Hardware, Scrap Metal, Dianna Witte Gallery. I love stumbling upon art in bank lobbies and parks, or a glimpse through someone’s window while walking. 



I have a show in September at Dianna Witte Gallery which I’m excited about--it brings artists together that are capturing human movement, dance, sexuality.


See more of Tatum's work on her website and stay connected with her on IG.


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