Heartbeats reminds us that our spirits are alive and strong. Before I decided to start this project, I went to an elder and a drummer to find out whether or not I should pursue this project. I was told to follow my heart from the elder and to proceed with respect from a confused drummer. A pow-wow drum is a sacred object that holds many teachings that we carry in our hearts. I want to present the viewer with the connection between mortality and tradition by combining the human heart and a pow-wow drum. My artwork has manifested many other personal meanings along the way. I think of the lost who are finding their way through tradition. Anishinaabeg are healing and becoming stronger by learning our culture and customs.
Christian Chapman is of Anishnaabeg heritage from Fort William First Nation. His interests include painting, printmaking and film. Chapman uses storytelling as a main theme in his practice to compose his images. The act of storytelling has been an important part of his life: it has informed him of his culture by shaping his identity and personal experiences.
Vanessa Dion Fletcher
In her most recent work, Vanessa Dion Fletcher explores themes of communication, identity and the body. Her explorations into concepts of language and identity have lead to the notion of the “failure to communicate.” Being a unilingual English speaker with Potawatomi and Lenape ancestry has enabled her to consider ideas of fluency and understanding. Having no direct access to her ancestral Aboriginal language has caused her to explore the notion of communication without words. How does one’s identity affect how they speak, listen and are heard? Why does communication fail and what are the consequences when it does? These are questions that Dion Fletcher explores.
Vanessa Dion Fletcher is an emerging multidisciplinary artist working in Toronto who often focuses on printmaking and performance. She graduated from York University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Certificate in Indigenous Studies. Dion Fletcher’s work has been exhibited at the Art Gallery of Peterborough: Jiigbiing – At The Edge Where The Water and Land Meet and at Art Mûr in Montreal Quebec: A Stake in the Ground: Contemporary Native Art Manifestation. In addition to her own art practice, Dion Fletcher works with the T.D.S.B Aboriginal Artist collective on community arts projects and co-curated the exhibition, Emnowaangosjig || Coming Out: The Shifting and Multiple Self.
A few years ago, I had the idea of beading over small kitsch items depicting Indigenous North Americans. These are mostly plastic figures and little dolls that can often be found for sale to tourists. Having lived with the stereotypes these items depict all my life, I thought it might be funny and empowering to take them out of visual circulation and replace their images with beads, my favourite medium. Once I began actually beading the items, I discovered that the results were not really funny at all, but disturbing. In some cases I did cover the entire object, but in others, my sympathy for the little figures grew until I found I couldn’t bring myself to cover their eyes. In these works, the embarrassed figures seem to gaze out from behind a beaded modesty cover, a new plight for them that I hadn’t anticipated.
Bev Koski is an Anishnabekwe artist who lives in Toronto. She is a graduate of the Ontario College of Art and has a BFA from York University. Koski was involved with 7th Generation Image Makers, an art and mural programme for Indigenous youth run by Native Child and Family Services of Toronto. She currently teaches beading at the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto, among other places. She is a constant beader and occasional artist.
Being of Anishinabe/English decent, my work often reflects just that. My practice explores the lasting impact of passing on traditional skills and techniques from generation to generation. As a means of survival, our ancestors made everything with their hands. My work is practical and reminiscent of the past when objects were not necessarily viewed as art, but for every day use with a specific purpose within the community. The media and materials I choose to work with relate to the pre-contact and contact times. In this way, my work represents an extension of time.
A tikinagan (Oji-Cree, pronounced tick-uh-naw-gun) is a traditional style baby’s cradleboard. This customary design makes the board float face up in the water. It also acts as a socialization tool for the infant. The child can see everything that is going on around them, while being protected from the elements, and allowing them to feel safe and comfortable. These works are meant to bring awareness of their significant purpose and continued use today. The tikinagan project was funded by the Ontario Arts Council.
Jean Marshall is a band member of KitchenuhmaykoosibInninuwug First Nation. She was born in Thunder Bay, Ontario, where she lives today. In 2000, she received an Honours BA in Native Studies from Trent University (Peterborough, Ontario).
Although she is recognized for her work with beads, she also enjoys harvesting and using natural materials such as leather, pine needles, birch bark and porcupine quills. Her art exploration is attributed to learning skills from others through observation, mentorships, residencies and life itself.
Marshall was the recipient of the 2012 K.M. Hunter Artist Award for Visual Arts.
The traditional arts of the Northwest Coast were a convergence of intangible and material wealth. The intangible includes things like rights and privileges, such as the right to fish or hunt in certain areas and the privilege to use certain crests or take part in specific dances or rituals. The material wealth includes the objects that represented those rights, such as masks, rattles or large house screens.
State of Grace is an exploration of the relationship between intangible and material. It utilizes recognizable NWC iconography, such as the raven, to transform characters and a mortuary box. Yet it is a constructed myth that contains references to non-Aboriginal religious concepts and popular culture.
My methodology is to protect cultural knowledge but still create art that is not devoid of meaning. I’ve done that by showing that my work is part of a lineage and not a break from “tradition.”
Luke Parnell is classically and traditionally trained. He received his classical training from the Ontario College of Art & Design where he earned a BFA and the Emily Carr University of Art and Design where he received his Master of Applied Arts degree. Parnell’s traditional training was an apprenticeship with Master Tsimsian carver Henry Green. He has received awards in British Columbia as well as Ontario and has exhibited work in many group shows as well as a solo show in 2009 called Technician of the Split-U. Parnell has been a professional artist for over 11 years.
I come from a long line of hoarders; people who collect things that most would consider trash. Growing up poor, we relied on our imagination to create things out of almost nothing. Now, as an adult, I enjoy taking everyday objects and transforming them into pieces that play off of their original intent. The playfulness of my work allows me to discuss ironic or uncomfortable situations, while the use of abandoned, obsolete or cheap everyday items helps me to navigate my social observations. I am particularly drawn to mass-produced disposable goods. While the use of these objects gives voice to concerns about environmental impact, they ultimately reflect my fascination with consumerism, and simultaneously satisfy my obsessive compulsion to purchase frivolous things I do not need, yet feel compelled to acquire.
Maika’i Tubbs is a painter, sculptor and installation artist living in Hawai’i on the island of O’ahu where he was born and raised. A 1996 graduate of Kamehameha Schools, he received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa in 2002. Though drawing and painting were his first loves, he eventually developed an interest in reconfiguring everyday objects, such as pushpins, plastic utensils, cassette tapes and glue, to expose their undiscovered potential.
Disparity is a new body of work that uses the art of Secwepemc basketry as a way of examining Indigenous versus westernized worldviews and economies. With a focus on birch bark techniques and harvesting, Willard learned the basics of Secwepemc basketry from artist Delores Purdaby of the Salmon Arm Neskonlith Reserve.Basketry is meant to be looked at as a holistic activity related to ways of knowing the land and living from the land, and as the aesthetic experience of creating an object. Willard worked with Purdaby to understand aspects of basketry as a Secwepemc artist, recently relocating to her home in Secwepemculecw. This new body of work uses Secwepemc materials to comment on contemporary politics involving the relationship of Indigenous people to a foreign economy and governance system (Canada). Willard examines ideas of value as she considers the time and knowledge invested in these Secwepemc materials versus the petroleum-based products of industrialization. Interested in diverse Indigenous systems of governance derived from local Indigenous knowledge, Willard’s work continues to evolve around re-learning the language of her ancestors and interpreting that knowledge through her mixed heritage and contemporary pop culture. Willard sees this as a means to locate ways of shifting knowledge and revaluing Indigenous culture, language and governance as contemporary models that offer solutions to the detrimental side effects of capitalism and industrial civilization.
Tania Willard, Secwepemc Nation, works within the shifting ideas around contemporary and traditional, often working with bodies of knowledge and skills that are conceptually linked to her interest in intersections between Aboriginal and other cultures. Willard has worked as an artist-in-residence with Gallery Gachet in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, the Banff Centre’s visual arts residency, fiction and Trading Post and as a curator-in-residence with grunt gallery. Collections of Willard’s work include the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and Kamloops Art Gallery. Her recent work with Stanley Park’s environmental art project focuses on Aboriginal presence and absence in Stanley Park through the philosophy of the Cedar Tree as the tree of life. Willard’s recent curatorial work includes Beat Nation: Art Hip Hop and Aboriginal Culture, featuring 27 contemporary Aboriginal artists, currently at Vancouver Art Gallery.