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Carole Itter

Alternate Names:
Vital Dates:
Born: 29 September 1939


Carole Itter is a Vancouver artist, writer, performer, photographer, and filmmaker known for her large-scale sculptures and installations made from found and discarded materials. Her work is included in the collections of the Canada Council Art Bank, the Vancouver Public Library, and the Vancouver Art Gallery. Itter is also known for her community activity in the Strathcona neighbourhood of Vancouver, starting in 1977. 

Carole Hazel Itter was born on September 29th, 1939, in Vancouver, BC. In 1958, Itter took one year of general art studies at the University of British Columbia before attending the Vancouver School of Art (now the Emily Carr University of Art + Design) from 1959 to 1962. While attending the VSA, Itter formed a bond with her instructor Roy Kiyooka and was mentored by him and his family. During her summer breaks from school, Itter painted sets for Theatre Under the Stars, the only professional scene shop in Vancouver at the time, and the Vancouver International Festival. In 1963, Itter spent a year studying the Education Program at the University of British Columbia before travelling to Italy in 1964 to briefly study set design at L’Accademia di Bella Arti in Rome. After leaving Rome, Itter traveled for three months visiting the museums and galleries of major cities across Europe, before returning to Canada. In 1966, she performed at the exhibition, Artist in Costume, at the University of British Columbia Fine Arts Gallery, which involved riding her motorcycle in the gallery space. In the early 1980s, Itter began creating assemblages from found objects, which she calls “rattles.” 

Itter’s works and performances from the 1970s include the self-published works Fresh Brown Eggs – Chickako, A Chicken Story & Some Collected Chicken Facts (1971) and Barnyard Stories (1972). The Log’s Log (1973) documented her performance piece Personal Baggage (1972-1973). This work involved transporting a cedar log in sections across the country by train from Vancouver to Nova Scotia, ending at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. The written work Tribute to Chickens was performed at the Western Front in 1975. The writer and poet, Daphne Marlatt and Itter collaborated on the oral-history publication Opening Doors: Vancouver’s East End (1979), which shared the stories of early residents in the Strathcona neighbourhood. 

In 1978, Itter began working with her partner and collaborator Al Neil, a multi-disciplinary musician and artist. Itter produced the photographic series Euclid (1979), which Neil continued to incorporate into new works and ideas. For Neil’s album Boot and Fog (1980), Itter photographed the cover of Neil drawing Euclidean theorems in the sand. Itter worked alongside Neil to create assemblages outside the Dollarton cabin. The assemblages continued to evolve for 25 years until it was demolished upon their eviction from the cabin in 2017. 

Itter continued to produce works and installations influenced by the geography of the Pacific Northwest, social issues, and political issues throughout the 1980s. Notable works, installations, exhibitions, and performances from the 1980s include Al Neil’s concert In the Still of the Night (1982) at the Western Front where Itter provided visuals, the publication Whistle Daughter Whistle (1982), the exhibition Rattles (1984) at the Western 

Front and Coburg Gallery, the assemblage Grand Piano Rattle: A Bosendorfer for Al Neil (1984), the assemblage Untitled Long Assemblage (1987), the group exhibition Moved by Other Cultures (1987) at the Surrey Art Gallery, the exhibition Winter Garden (1988) at the Western Front, the exhibition Choir of Rattles (1988), and the assemblage Western Blue Rampage (1989). Choir of Rattles was also used in performances by the Karen Jamieson Dance Company in 1989. Following the work on Opening Doors: Vancouver’s East End, Itter continued to record stories from elders in the area of Hastings and Main, the interview tapes were used in the publication Hastings and Main: Stories from an Inner City Neighbourhood in 1987. In 1989, Itter received a Vancouver Institute of Visual Arts Award for contribution to the arts in Vancouver and began teaching the first-year programs at the Emily Carr Institute of Art + Design. 

In the first half of the 1990s, Itter created works and exhibitions that exemplify her opposition to consumer culture, such as the installation Where the Streets are Paved with Gold: A Tribute to a Canadian Immigrant Neighbourhood (1991) at the Vancouver Art Gallery, the installation Desolate Combination of Objects (1994) at the Pitt Gallery, and the exhibition The Float (1995) at the Or Gallery, which revisited the original performance and 3 channel video work from 1993 on Burrard Inlet, filmed by Luke Blackstone and Trudy Rubenfeld. 

In the early 2000s, Itter became further involved in filmmaking, creating works such as A Fish Film (2003) (formerly known as Metallic: A Fish Film) co-directed by Bo Myers, Tarpaulin Pull (2006) with camera and editing by Krista Lomax, and Inlet (2009) edited by Krista Lomax with sound by Al Neil. 
Itter developed an interest in geese, which have featured prominently in her performance, written, and installation works for over 30 years. The interest began by observing the geese at Dollarton, BC, where she became intrigued by their sense of community, how they cared for their young, their sounds, and how they alerted each other to danger. 

In June 2015, Itter and Neil were evicted from the blue cabin in Dollarton after the adjacent shipyard to the site was purchased and marked for development. The cabin was removed from Dollarton for repair and remediation thanks to efforts led by Glenn Alteen of grunt gallery, Esther Rausenberg of Creative Cultural Collaborations, and Barbara Cole of Other Sights for Artists’ Projects. The cabin was transformed into a floating artist residency called the Blue Cabin, which first launched in False Creek in 2019. In January 2022, the cabin and its barge was moved to Imperial Landing in Steveston Village. 

Itter has been included in several group exhibitions, including the touring exhibition WACK: Art and the Feminist Revolution (2008) organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, An Autobiography of our Collection (2011) at the Vancouver Art Gallery, Joan Dark (2014) at Western Front, Geometry of Knowing (2015) at SFU Gallery and Audain Gallery, Between Object and Action: Transforming Media in the 1960s and 70s (2015) at the Vancouver Art Gallery, Beginning with the Seventies: Radial Change (2018) at the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, Please Meet the Geese Who Have Lived Here Forever (2023) at the Audain Gallery, and Only when I’m hauling water do I wonder if I’m getting any stronger (2023) at the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery. In 2017, Itter received the Audain Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Visual Arts. 

As of 2024, Itter continues to live and work in Strathcona neighbourhood. 

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