Marisa Portolese was born in Montreal, Quebec, where she currently lives and works. She is an Associate Professor in the Photography Program in the Faculty of Fine Arts, at Concordia University. Her practice includes photography and video, as well as curatorial work for several institutions.
Portraiture, representations of women, childhood, youth culture, and autobiography are major and recurrent themes within her work. She often produces large-scale color photographs that juxtapose human figures with landscape and still lifes. She concentrates on elucidating facets of human experiences in relation to psychological and physical environments, relating to larger themes concerning identity and spectatorship. She attempts to weave together gesture, affect, and the nuances of her subjects’ gazes, to create an immersive and emotional landscape for the viewer. She is interested in the relationship between the fixed photographic portrait and the moving image. Borrowing from cinematic strategies and the staging of her subjects, she tries to capture the narrative potential within each still image.
Upon graduating with an MFA degree from Concordia University in 2001, she has produced many photographic projects, which have received critical acclaim: Belle de Jour (2002), The Recognitions (2004-05), Breathless (2007), The Dandy Collection (2005-ongoing), Imagined Paradise (2010) Antonia’s Garden (2011), Women of the Landscape (2013), Belle de Jour II (2013) and Belle de Jour III (2016). She has travelled and exhibited widely in Canada, Europe and the United States. In 2007, she was invited to participate in the prestigious international biennale of contemporary photography: Le Mois de la Photo à Montréal organized by Marie Fraser. She also has two published monographs: Un Chevreuil à la Fenêtre de ma Chambre (2003) and Antonia’s Garden (2012).
Alongside her exhibition record, critics have written about her work in various journals, magazines, newspapers, art books and periodicals. She is the recipient of several awards and numerous grants from the Canada and Québec Arts Councils, as well as the DuMaurier Arts Foundation. Her work is part of private and public collections.