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Liz Magor

Photograph of Liz Magor

(1948- )
Sculptor, Photographer

Liz Magor

Sculpture, HOLLOW, by Liz Magor


Hollow, by Liz Magor, 1998-1999

Liz Magor's installations in sculpture and photography examine questions of time, identity, and existence.

Magor was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1948, one of five children. She and her family moved to Prince Rupert, British Columbia, in the early 1950s. She attended the University of British Columbia from 1966 to 1968. She then moved on to the Parsons School of Design in New York City, studying there from 1968 to 1970, before finishing her formal training at the Vancouver School of Art in 1971.

In the early years of her career, Magor lived in Vancouver. She extensively explored the Lower Mainland coast of British Columbia, collecting and sorting various types of natural materials. Her early works were concerned with the idea of "natural multiples" — identical, or nearly identical items, which appeared in nature rather than being manufactured. In early works such as The Birdnester (early 1970s), Magor presented these natural objects using modern production and marketing methods. At the same time, she investigated the subtle differences that occurred amongst these seemingly identical items. Later pieces of this period, for example Four Boys and a Girl (1979), involved the creation of her own multiples; she presented the means of creation, and the finished products, together in the same work. Many of her works were created using non-traditional organic materials that changed or decayed over time, creating subtle differences amongst the objects. Her interest was in the processes of creation and destruction, as much as the product itself.

Magor moved to Toronto in the early 1980s, living there until 1992. Her work took a slight change in direction, to creations that more directly told a story. She began to examine the establishment of identity through objective means, rather than identity as it evolved over time. A particular example of this is the piece Dorothy, A Resemblance (1980-1981), relating the story of a woman who recounts her personal history in relation to her body weight. This same story was the focus of several following installation works: The Most She Weighed/The Least She Weighed (1982), Seventeen Books (1981-1982), and I Have Always Weighed 98 Pounds (1983-1984). It was at this time that she began using photographs as part of her installations, further exploring the idea of multiples in such works as the above-mentioned I Have Always Weighed 98 Pounds (1983-1984), and Four Notable Bakers (1983).

Magor's recent works have examined questions of individual refuge and identity in modern society. In the series Fieldwork (1989) and High Plains (1991), she used photographs of people recreating past lifestyles (in this case, hippies and "weekend cowboys") to examine the desire to immerse oneself in the past in order to establish an identity. In works such as Hollow (1998-1999), Burrow (1999), Keep (1999-2000), and the photographic series Deep Woods (1999), she explores the possibilities (and oddities) of the wilderness as ultimate refuge.

Over the course of her career, Liz Magor has been featured in many solo and joint exhibitions. She participated in the Sydney Biennale of 1982, and was chosen as one of two Canadian representatives (with Ian Carr-Harris) to the Venice Biennale of 1984. A solo exhibition entitled "Liz Magor: Identity and Difference," toured Canada in 1987-1988. In 2001, she was one of ten artists invited to take part in the National Gallery of Canada's "Elusive Paradise" exhibition and competition. That same year, she was honoured with a Governor General's Visual and Media Arts award. She has taught at a number of institutions across Canada, including the University of British Columbia, the Ontario College of Art and Design, the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, and the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design. She currently lives and works in British Columbia.


Bradley, Jessica. — Ian Carr-Harris, Liz Magor. — Ottawa : National Gallery of Canada for the Corporation of National Museums of Canada, c1984. — 58 p.

____. — "Magor, Liz". — Canadian encyclopedia, year 2000 edition. — Edited by James H. Marsh. — 3rd print ed. — Toronto : McClelland & Stewart, 1999. — P. 1413

Constructing cultural identity : Jin-me Yoon, Bob Boyer, Liz Magor. — [Edmonton : Edmonton Art Gallery, 1991]. — 1 portfolio

Hogg, Lucy ; Shier, Reid ; Tousley, Nancy. — Liz Magor. — Toronto : Art Gallery of York University, 2000. — 93 p.

"Liz Magor". — Contemporary Canadian artists. — Edited by Roger Matuz. — Scarborough, Ont. : Gale Canada, 1997. — P. 372-375

Magor, Liz. — Four notable bakers. — Toronto : [Ydessa Gallery], 1983. — [42] p.

____. — How to avoid the future tense. — Banff, Alta. : Walter Phillips Gallery, 1981. — [90] p.

____. — Liz Magor : Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Victoria, B.C., January 10-February 11, 1979, University of British Columbia Fine Arts Gallery, Vancouver, B.C., March 1-30, 1979, Southern Alberta Art Gallery, Lethbridge, Alberta, September 2-30, 1979. — Victoria, B.C. : The Gallery, 1979. — [16] p.

____. — The most she weighed. — [Calgary] : Glenbow Museum, [1983]. — 32 p.

____. — Pages from history : Liz Magor, early works. — Oakville, Ont. : Oakville Galleries, 1993. — [4] p.

____. — Liz Magor : production/reproduction : the Vancouver Art Gallery, October 24-November 23, 1980. — Vancouver, B.C. : The Gallery, c1980. — [16] p.

____. — Seventeen books. — Toronto : [Ydessa Gallery], 1986. — 34 p.

Monk, Philip  — Liz Magor. — Toronto : Art Gallery of Ontario, 1986. — 48 p.

Salzman, Gregory. — Meeting place : Robert Gober, Liz Magor, Juan Munoz : an exhibition. — [North York, Ont.] : Art Gallery of York University, c1990. — 16 p.

Tousley, Nancy. — "Interview : Liz Magor". — Canadian art. — Vol. 17, no. 1 (Spring 2000). — P. 70-74

____. — "Liz Magor : sculpture at the threshold of the real". — Canada Council : Governor General's Visual and Media Arts Awards [online]. — Ottawa : The Council, 2001. — [Cited May 3, 2002]. — Access:

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