Colette Urban

Other Name: Constance Joyce Urban

“She had an alternative way on making things happen. Not magic, but a way of taking something ordinary and making it extraordinary.”
 – Christy Thompson, former student of Colette Urban
(The Globe and Mail, June 28, 2013)

Colette Urban was born in Denver, Colorado in 1952, and grew up in Michigan and North Carolina. Becoming aware of her daughter’s strong artistic potential at a young age, her mother enrolled both Colette and her sister in art classes at the art museum in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Urban received her BFA from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and her MFA from the University of Victoria. She went on to teach at several universities across Canada, including the University of Victoria and Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, the University of Toronto, Sir Wilfred Grenfell College at Memorial University in Corner Brook, Newfoundland, and Western University, London, Ontario, where she spent eleven years.

In 2007 she moved to the town of Meadows, Newfoundland and established Full Tilt Creative Centre in the nearby town of McIvers, offering residence and work spaces, an exhibition venue, and even an organic farm. Full Tilt would go on to host international artists, and Urban also used the location for a number of her own projects.

In 2009, Urban was the subject of Katherine Knight’s documentary Pretend Not to See Me: The Art of Colette Urban, which captured some of the artists’ performance works. In 2012, Urban was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts and in May, 2013 she was the recipient of the Excellence in Visual Arts Long Haul Award from VANL-CARFAC , the Newfoundland and Labrador provincial affiliate of the Canadian Artists’ Representation (CARFAC).

Before her death in June 2013, Urban was involved in the planning of a retrospective exhibition of her work to be held at Museum London. The exhibition, entitled Incognito, would ultimately open in October 2013.

Colette Urban’s practice encompassed sculpture, installation, and mixed media, but much of her work was performance-based. These performances were characterized by Urban’s use of unique costumes and provided a mode to explore the various issues Urban was passionate about, including identity and gender issues. One of Urban’s main interests was the relationship between artist and landscape, shown through works such as The Bare Performance.

Urban explored the relationship between an artist and their audience with interactive installations, which she would frequently translate into performances. She would then preserve these performances through photographs and video recordings, combating the transitory nature of performance art as a whole. Urban exhibited and performed her work both across Canada and internationally.

After her death in 2013, the town of McIvers, Newfoundland named a walking trail in her honour, now officially known as the Colette Urban Memorial Trail.

Biography by Natalka Duncan and Luvneet K. Rana



“Constance (Colette) Urban.” In Memoriam. June, 2013. Accessed June 26, 2018.

Habermehl, Krista. “Bare art: A bequest of drawings, paintings and costumes reveal the artistic process of former Visual Arts professor Colette Urban.” Impact Western (Summer 2015),  August 11, 2015. Accessed June 26, 2018.

Mallia, Carmen. “Celebrate 50 years of visual arts by ‘Looking Back’.” Western Gazette, January 8, 2018. Accessed June 26, 2018. .

Neudorf, Kim. “Colette Urban at Museum London.” Akimbo. November 19, 2013. Accessed June 26, 2018. .

Sullivan, Joan. “Maverick artist Colette Urban loved to live on the edge.” The Globe and Mail. June, 28, 2013. Accessed June 26, 2018.

The Western Front. Augur and Pretend Not to See Me. Accessed September 11, 2018.

Urban, Colette. Colette Urban. Accessed July 26, 2018.



Choi, Caitlin. “Urban’s Farm.” The Queen’s University Journal., February 3, 2012.
Accessed January 23, 2019.

Colette Urban, Bare

Bare 2008
installation: mixed media and DVD (run-time 3:16)
McIntosh Gallery Collection, Western University
Gift of the Estate of Colette Urban, 2014

Click here or on the above image to watch a video of Colette Urban’s performance, Bare. The video will launch in a new browser tab.
(Please note that the video may take a moment to load).

See also: Jill Price


McIntosh Gallery, Red Doors (Thumbnail)Click here for information about works by Colette Urban
in McIntosh Gallery’s collection

Read More
Image Gallery
Gallery Image 1Gallery Image 2Gallery Image 3
Gallery Image 4Gallery Image 5Gallery Image 6
Gallery Image 7