For Native people, skin encompasses an entire universe of meaning. Our own skin functions as a canvas which we can inscribe with messages about our identity, or use as a shield, protecting and hiding our secrets; animal skin as a material has a deep history within Native culture. It is a symbolic reminder of historical misrepresentation, exploitation, and racial politics. The artists selected for HIDE draw upon this rich subject and material in multi-faceted ways, using both the material and concept of skin as a metaphor for widespread issues surrounding race, representation, as well as personal and historical trauma and perseverance.
Sonya Kelliher-Combs, Nadia Myre, and Michael Belmore each present bodies of sculptural and mixed-media work that explore skin as a surface, revealing, concealing and defining. The work of these artists awakens the senses, drawing the audience into a tactile experience of the materiality of their work as well as making them think about the complex ideas that emerge from this compelling art. The photographers invited to participate in the exhibition-Arthur Renwick, KC Adams, Terrance Houle, Rosalie Favell, and Sarah Sense-have created images of Native people in a compelling and diverse collection of portraits that play with and challenge our notions about the representation of Native people. In their challenging work, they interrupt our understanding of race, distort our perception of “skin” and violate the artificial boundaries created by this potent subject matter. Rather than hiding difficult issues, they expose what is beneath the surface.