Hidden in Plain Sight: The work of artist Lynda Gammon


by: Lisa Abram, Communications Officer

"The point of commonality between Carolyn Butler Palmer’s work as an art historian and Lynda Gammon’s art practice is the impossibility of viewing a complete history."

If you listen intently, you may hear the quiet murmur of women's voices rising up from the vaults that contain their artwork in the current exhibit, Latent, on display until April 6, 2024 at the UVic Legacy Art Galleries.

Inspired by a painting willed to her in 1980 by late great aunt Sylvia Sutton, Victoria artist and UVic Professor Emerita Lynda Gammon knew only fragments about the life of this relative's bohemian and artistic lifestyle. But persistent questions about the context surrounding Sutton's circle of artist friends and colleagues led Gammon to seek out the work of women artists in Victoria from the previous generation, many of whom are held in the Special Collections & University Archives of UVic Libraries.

Using her meditative practice as a base from which to frame this exhibit, Gammon guides us behind-the-scenes to that liminal space, in the collections' vaults, where women's artworks endure. Captured by partially blurred and obscured black and white photographs, Gammon's self-portraits encourage us to not only consider the passage of time and space, but both the presence and absence of women artists in archives and art historical collections.

Carolyn Butler-Palmer, curator, Legacy Chair and UVic Associate Professor, Art History and Visual Studies wrote: "Artist Lynda Gammon has long been centred on the role photographic images take in recovering overlooked histories. Between 2020 and 2023, she created Intervening in the Collections Vaults: The University of Victoria, a series of long-exposure self-portraits of Gammon with artwork created by women artists, owned by the University of Victoria and kept in its vaults and archives. Her purpose was to spend time with the work of women artists who came before her so that she might pay regard to her professional antecedents whose work lies dormant, waiting to be exhibited."


While we cannot view the full artwork of Katharine Maltwood, Elza Mahew, Lena Jumbo (Ahousaht), and so many others, that are featured in the photos, this exhibit is meant to honour the many women artists who remain hidden in the art collection, and to surface the mechanisms that conceal them from view.

“These images elicit a sense that the artwork is both present and cannot be fully known, as we cannot either see the work or come to know the artists," Butler-Palmer explains. "Gammon’s photographs, instead, invite us to call the women artists and their work to mind.”

Learn more about Gammon's current exhibit:

North by Northwest interview

North by Northwest newsletter



photos: by Jade Guan