Sacred art, sacred teachings

Rande Cook at UVic (Photo Services)

It has been a busy couple of years for Rande Cook. Beyond his duties as chief of Vancouver Island’s ’Namgis Nation and his commitments as an in-demand contemporary artist with an international practice, Cook just completed two back-to-back terms as the Audain Professor of Contemporary Art Practice of the Pacific Northwest with the Visual Arts department.

“Two years in the position allowed me to really reach students,” says Cook. “I was able to delve into the role art plays in politics, and got them to dive deep within themselves. I pushed my students a lot and they seemed to appreciate that — the feedback at the end of the year said it was one of the more profound classes they had ever taken, because it challenged them internally.”

More than just creating a challenging course, however, Cook found the Audain Professorship provided him with the chance to bring his own artistic training into play.

Viewers at Cook’s Audain Exhibition

“Having the opportunity to share what I do from a strong First Nations background was key,” he explains. “Bringing that knowledge into an institution where students don’t really understand traditional teaching gave me the chance to share the real foundation of what the art is: that it comes from a sacred place, that the teachings are sacred.”

Cook is the sixth artist to hold the Audain Professorship, following the likes of Jackson 2Bears, Michael Nicol Yahgulanaas, Nicholas Galanin and Governor General’s Award-winner Rebecca Belmore.

As he reflected in this interview following his first year in the position, “I wanted to design a course around the work I’m doing right now, which means looking at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the murdered and missing Indigenous women, Idle No More, the REDress project, the round dance movement . . . about healing and bridging.”

Rande Cook speaking at the art education conference

Now he feels two years in the position allowed him greater freedom to explore key concepts. “I could break down the art form into its elements and show them how to put it back together. It was like dissecting a symphony: a violin can play anything, once you learn it, but it’s up to you to decide the song and how it should be played.”

Beyond his time in the classroom, Cook was also frequently seen around UVic in his role as chief, participating in events at First Peoples House, drumming for ceremonial openings, speaking at educational conferences, and taking part in discussions about greater indigenization on campus.

Cook also presented a retrospective of his work in October 2016 as the annual Audain Exhibition. Held each fall in the Audain Gallery, Cook’s Accumulation was timed to coincide with Intersections, a combined conference by the BC Art Teachers Association and the Canadian Society for Education through Art. A highlight of the event, Accumulation also provided context for remarks by Cook, who led a workshop at the conference — which also featured a keynote address by Michael Nicoll Yahgulaanas, a former Audain Professor himself.

Collaboration Mask, seen at the Audain Exhibition

Among the pieces on display at Accumulation was a mask collaboratively created with local artist Carollyne Yardley. Aptly titled “/kəˌlabəˈrāSH(ə)n / Collaboration Mask,” the piece is a good example of both Cook’s connections with Victoria’s greater arts community and his contemporary take on traditional art forms.

“in an era of reconciliation, art has once again become a node through which native and non-native engagement is flourishing through agendas of healing, understanding and respect . . . ‘/kəˌlabəˈrāSH(ə)n / Collaboration Mask’ is an aesthetic response to this cultural resurgence in Canada,” writes Fine Arts alumna Dr. Andrea Walsh in this short essay about the piece.

And does he think an important part of the Audain Professorship is to have a presence both in the community and across campus? “I really do,” he says. “I don’t find there’s a lot of true Northwest Coast representation in Fine Arts — there are people who study and teach it, but authentic Northwest Coast artists like myself are rare. Having people in those positions who can speak to that is important.”

Cook also feels it’s important to transcend academia’s traditional definitions. “There are no walls within our culture. I sat in a lot of meetings where people were saying, ‘We want to indigenize the university, how can we incorporate more indigeneity?’ But we don’t have walls between history and music and practice . . . if someone in the Audain position could keep that idea alive, it would be very beneficial.”

Cook (centre) at the opening of UVic’s Michael Williams building

Much like the bridges he builds with his art, Cook feels reaching new communities is an important part of his role as chief and educator.

“Overall, the Audain position gave me the opportunity to share a deeper, profound understanding with everyone — not just the art form, but where it comes from and what it’s about. You can see native art all over the place now, but there’s a deeper meaning to it . . . especially when you’re wanting to learn, to develop the skills.”

 

Busy fall for Visual Arts faculty

It’s a busy season for our Visual Arts professors, a number of whom have exhibits of new work on view, both locally, nationally and internationally.

Robert Youds, “City Cut Flowers”

Visual Arts professor and alumnus Robert Youds presents City Cut Flowers, a solo exhibit of new works, until Sept 30 at Winchester Galleries Downtown (665 Fort). Featuring three related painting projects and two light-based works, City Cut Flowers explores picture/objects as imagined and remembered fragments drawn from our urban world. Each piece explores the core perceptual conditions of light, shadow, colour, surface, and their communicative relationship to our aesthetic, cultural, and ideological values.

“I have been thinking about consciousness in our time, and that age-old question: how do we as individuals shape it?” says Youds. “For example, is a home a home without personal choices evidenced through the careful spatial choreography of pictures, colours, surfaces, and light? Where do our aesthetic dispositions evolve from? Can the growing digital and AI realms alter our future understanding of the physical world or will they simply reinforce the same elements through a different means?”

Youds also has another solo exhibit coming up this winter: For Everyone A Fountain runs Nov 17 – Jan 2, 2018, at Open Space. He’ll be hosting an artist’s talk at 2pm Saturday, Nov 18.

New work by Daniel Laskarin

Visual Arts professor and sculptor Daniel Laskarin presents his latest solo exhibit, ruins and reclamation, which continues until Oct 7 at Deluge Contemporary (636 Yates). His work combines industrial forms with elements of minimalist sculpture, material exploration and the lyrical sensibility of visual metaphor. He describes his work as means for thinking through the world, a process by which he might give sensory experience to consciousness.

Objects and materials, combined and manipulated, form things that find their own order in a condition of disorder and yet refuse that which orders everything. Independent materials congeal to create an interdependent network, resulting in unique forms that generate a complex and shifting subjective experience. His diverse media incorporates photography and video, optics, robotics systems, installation and sound. He has been involved with set design, public image projections and large-scale public commissions in Vancouver and Seattle, and has exhibited in Canada and internationally.

Kelly Richardson’s “Leviathan”

New Visual Arts professor Kelly Richardson is in the midst of a very busy few months, with work in a variety of exhibitions. Her hyper-real digital films of rich and complex landscapes that have been manipulated using CGI, animation and sound, have caught the eye of galleries around the world. Her latest solo exhibit, Kelly Richardson: The Weather Makers, runs at Dundee Contemporary Arts in Scotland from Sept 23 to Nov 26. Weather Makers was previewed in this article from The Herald newspaper, which describes her “thought-provoking, post-apocalyptic art in its spectacular large-scale form” as both “visceral and provoking” and “a wonderful fictional and imaginary element tied in to stark scientific fact and research.”

Weather Makers features three of Richardson’s video works and a series of chromogenic prints, Pillars of Dawn, which posits a desertscape of environmental desiccation in which trees and plants have been physically crystallized by some unknown environmental event. “The questions that she’s asking about the way we’re mistreating the world around us, about global warming, the constant consumption of resources and how we’re going to manage after mismanaging it for so long are so incredibly pertinent and urgent right now,” says DCA curator Eoin Dara of Richardson’s show. “Magnificent and complex, Richardson’s work asks us to consider what our future might be like if we continue on our current trajectory of planetary pillaging and consumption, and why we have allowed ourselves to arrive at such a moment of global environmental crisis.”

Richardson also has work at the following group exhibits this fall:

“Embassy 2017” by Cedric Bomford & Verena Kazimierz

Visual Arts professor Cedric Bomford and department LTA Verena Kaminiarz are working together on “Embassy, 2017” an outdoor project for the Calculating Upon the Unforseen portion of Toronto’s upcoming Nuit Blanche on Sept 30. “Embassy, 2017” is described as a large-scale structure “designed to adapt to the site where it is located; which can be seen as opportunistic, parasitic and political . . . Given the current trend of hardening nationalism around the world, it seems fitting to reflect on notions of national identity. Forever in progress, Embassy requires visitors to complete the structure in their minds.” The piece was featured as a highlight of the Toronto Star’s Nuit Blanche preview article.

Professor Emeritus Sandra Meigs opens her latest solo exhibit this fall. Room for Mystics will run at the prestigious Art Gallery of Ontario starting October 18. A recipient of the Governor General’s Award in 2015, and the 2015 Gershon Iskowitz Prize, Meigs was also recently named a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. Her new installation, Room for Mystics (which includes work by School of Music Director Christopher Butterfield), emerges from her Iskowitz Prize.

For over 35 years Meigs has created vivid, immersive, and enigmatic paintings that combine complex narratives with comic elements. She derives the content of her work from her own personal experiences, and develops these to create visual metaphors related to the psyche. Meigs will provide an overview of her work and speak about her new installation, Room for Mystics, at an AGO public talk on Oct 18—but more locally, she’ll also be speaking as part of the “Treasures & Tea” series at UVic’s LIbraries from 1-2pm Wednesday, Sept 27 in room A003 of the McPherson Library.

Meigs will talk about what it was like to be a painter in the ’70s and ’80s, and why the donation of her archive from that period to UVic’s Special Collections might be of interest to researchers. She will also show a brand new artist flap book project she collaborated on with poet Ron Padgett.

Sessional instructor and noted local artist Charles Campbell is involved in a pair of international exhibitions this fall: Relational Undercurrents: Contemporary Art of the Caribbean Archipelago at Los Angeles’ Museum of Latin American Art (running Sept 16, 2017 – February 25, 2018) and En Mas: Carnival and Performance Art of the Caribbean at San Francisco’s Museum of the African Diaspora (Sept 20, 2017 – March 4, 2018).

And busy MFA alumni Lindsay Delaronde, and Hjalmer Wenstob were both involved in the One Wave Gathering on September 16. As Victoria’s Indigenous Artist in Residence, Delaronde had a featured performance, while Wenstob worked with local Indigenous youth to create four longhouses on the lawns of the BC Legislature. Wenstob’s involvement was mentioned in this Victoria News article.

Finally, the department’s acclaimed Visiting Artist program is in full swing again, with a number of guests coming in this fall:

  • Amie Siegel (Sept 20) – Ranging from photographs, video, film installations and feature films for the cinema, American artist Amie Siegel’s work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions across the US and around the world.
  • Léuli Eshrāghi (Sept 27) – The work of this Sāmoan / Persian artist centres on ceremonial-political renewal, languages, embodied futures, diasporic and local indigeneities.
  • Valérie Blass, “She Was A Big Success”

    Valérie Blass (Oct 4) – This Montreal-based sculptor contrasts notions of visibility and invisibility, as well as the boundaries between volume and surface.

  • Kimberly Phillips (Oct 25) – This writer and curator spent the past four years as the Director / Curator of Access Gallery, a Vancouver artist-run centre committed to emergent and experimental practices. She recently joined Vancouver’s Contemporary Art Gallery as curator.
  • Dominique Pétrin (Nov 1) – A multidisciplinary artist living and working in Montreal, Dominique Pétrin was recently longlisted for the prestigious Sobey Award, and has exhibited across Canada, France, the US, Belgium and the UK.
  • Patrick Howlett (Nov 22) – Abstract painter Patrick Howlett is a UVic MFA alumnus and has exhibited nationally and internationally, and is currently based in London, Ontario.

All Visiting Artists talks happen at 7:30pm in room A150 of UVic’s Visual Arts building, and all are free and open to the public. Please join us!

 

A summer of Visual Arts

It’s been a busy summer for Visual Arts faculty, students and alumni — thanks to a number of new projects, installations and exhibits happening locally, nationally and internationally. Here’s a quick roundup:

Daniel Laskarin with his in-process sculpture

Professor Daniel Laskarin unveiled a new sculpture at Richmond Firehall 3 in July. The new piece, titled to be distinct and to hold together, is the culmination of an $80,000 public commission started in 2015 and sits in front of the new building, housing Cambie Fire Hall No. 3 and the Richmond North Ambulance Station.

Created to resemble a fire tetrahedron, Laskarin’s sculpture is a representation of the four elements necessary for fire: fuel, heat, oxygen and a sustaining chemical reaction. Visitors are invited to interact with the work, pushing to rotate it by hand, which gives it both a literal meaning — in presenting the services named and the community served — as well as a metaphoric meaning — by giving vision to the interlinked and interdependent relationships among Richmond Fire-Rescue, BC Ambulance Service and the broader community. You can watch it spin in this video.

Visual Arts professor Cedric Bomford is having a busy summer out of town, with work in the California Pacific Triennial at the Orange County Museum of Art, running until September. This thought-provoking exhibition offers a survey of contemporary art in and around the Pacific Rim, exploring the topic of architecture and the temporal precariousness of the built environment. Among the issues to be addressed are the recording of history and preservation; the concept of home and displacement; and the influence of global power, economics, and political systems on global construction. And, along with his brother Nathan and father Jim, Cedric also has a project opening as part of Endless Landscape in Gatineau, Quebec, running until August 30.

Kelly Richardson

Kelly Richardson, our new digital/extended media professor, is hitting the ground running with a pair of summer exhibits: the Bonavista Biennale in Newfoundland and the Towner Art Gallery in Eastbourne, England. The group exhibit at the Towner features art from 12 leading international artists, including Richardson, who has been living and working at Newcastle University since 2003.

Timed for the Canada 150 celebrations, the Bonavista Biennale is a contemporary visual art exhibition and running August 17 – September 17. Organized by curators Catherine Beaudette and Patricia Grattan, it will present works by 25 leading Canadian artists in non-gallery sites (micro-brewery, fishstore, old schoolhouse, seal plant, beach, etc) and promises a unique encounter with this spectacular area where history and traditional culture combine. It’s already gaining attention as one of Canadian Art magazine’s “20 show we want to see in 2017”.

There was a good deal of media interest in the latest site- and temporally-specific performance piece by department chair Paul Walde: his Tom Thomson Centennial Swim on July 8 resulted in 10 unique interviews, ranging from a full-page piece on page A3 of the Toronto Star to six different CBC Radio shows and the Times Colonist. “Landscape painting is about beauty,” Walde told the Star‘s Murray Whyte. “But the landscape is dangerous. It doesn’t care if you live or die. That was the very limit of what I could do. For me, to be in the water where he died — that was powerful.”

And professor Megan Dickie has a new publication hot off the press: One Way or Another looks at Dickie’s exhibition of the same title that ran at Open Space from January 13-February 18, 2017. The publication features essays by exhibit curator Megan K. Quigley, writer Kyra Korodoski and MFA alumna artist Kerri Flannigan.

Kerry Flannigan in action

Speaking of Kerri Flannigan, the recent MFA alumna will be spending the next eight months in residence at Victoria’s venerable Open Space, which has provided a vital interdisciplinary gallery and performance space for over 45 years now. Flannigan’s residency will include research and production investigating social media and storytelling, relating to early digital telecommunications. A Victoria-based interdisciplinary artist and writer who explores methods of experimental narrative and documentary, her work is grounded in both personal history and in-depth research; recent pieces examined family mythologies, coming-of-age confessions, body language and swimming pools.

Modeling the collaboratory projects that Open Space engaged in the late ‘70s, Flannigan’s project employs archival research, DIY skill sharing, and collaborative production, and will culminate in a series of public workshops and performances. She will be focusing on slow-scan, and will work with artist Patrick Lichty, as well as former Open Space directors/artists Peggy Cady and Bill Bartlett. As one of the oldest artist-run centres in Canada, Open Space has played a significant role in the development of contemporary art in Canada. In addition to hosting thousands of artists over the years; it also publishes, manages a resource centre, maintains archives, and manages a commercial lease for the lower level of its building.

Lindsay Delaronde supported by dancers during ACHoRd (Photo: Peruzzo)

In other Visual Arts alumni news, recent MFA Lindsay Delaronde — now Indigenous Artist in Residence for the city of Victoria — presented the powerful dance performance piece AChoRd. A great example of how reconciliation can — and should — involve the arts, AChoRd was performed on June 25 in front of the BC Legislature as part of Victoria’s Canada150 celebrations.

As Emilee Gilpin writes in this fantastic Tyee article, “the performance, called ‘ACHoRd,’ was not a regular dance but the result of weeks of storytelling, healing and transformation. The group, comprised of Indigenous and non-Indigenous women, explored the theme of reconciliation by listening to and learning from one another, creating movements and strategies of support.” To get more of a sense of the creation, intent and impact of the event, be sure to read Gilpin’s piece, which also features exceptionally strong photography by Peruzzo.

Another recent Visual Arts MFA alumna with work on view this summer is Kwakwaka’wakw artist Marianne Nicolson. Her video installation There’s Blood in the Rocks — running until September 16 at the Legacy Art Gallery Downtown — uses pictographic imagery and song in a quiet but powerful video installation that tells the often-silenced history of the 1862 small pox epidemic in Victoria, which utterly devastated thousands of West Coast First Nations people. With this piece, Nicolson acknowledges the loss of her ancestors while affirming continued Indigenous presence in the land and the strength, endurance and resurgence of First Nations peoples over time.

“Forestrial Brain” in process (photo:
Yannick Grandmont)

Visual Arts alumni Jim Holyoak and Matt Shane have spent the past two months working on the collaborative drawing installation Forestrial Brain at Open Space — the culmination of an eight-day hike on the West Coast Trail, followed by a six-week residency at Open Space. The enormous, immersive drawn installation explores west coast forests and ecologies, steeped in fantasy and imagination. This shared world is one at the borderlands of wilderness and civilization, the real and the imaginary, deep time and the present,” says Shane. To mark their achievement, Open Space is holding a finissage (closing reception) for Forestrial Brain during the Integrate Arts Festival: 7pm Friday, August 25, with music to follow. Read more about what Times Colonist art critic Robert Amos calls “the biggest, most complex and engaging artistic creation I can ever remember in that space” in this article.

Shane an Holyoak are just two of many Visual Arts alumni involved in the 11th annual Integrate Arts Festival, running August 25-27 in a number of venues and galleries around Victoria. Watch for work by Colton Hash, Laura Gildner, Leah McInnis, Maddy Knott, Marianne Nicolson, Elizabeth Charters and Xiao Xue. And don’t miss Laura Gildner’s “Public Displays of Affection” walking tour (1-2pm Sat, Aug 26), a participant-driven performance work touring between selected exhibits in the downtown core. 

In award news, 2017 BFA grad Xiao Xue continues to make headlines with her remarkable walking camper project, titled “something to ponder on” — which will also be on view during the Integrate Arts Festival in downtown’s Bastion Square. As well as being singled out as an outstanding undergrad in this UVic News article, she won the top prize in June’s Rainhouse Technology Challenge—beating out prototype drones, satellites and submarines. “Xiao’s work shows a unique blending of art and technology. It’s a remarkable application of imagination,” said Rainhouse’s Ray Brougham in this Victoria News article. Xiao was also interviewed on CBC Radio’s On The Island on July 12, and was featured in this CHEK TV news segment on July 13.

Xiao Xue with her walking camper

Breaking news! Xue has just been confirmed as the national prize winner in 2017’s BMO 1st Art invitational competition. Not only does she win $15,000, but her work will be featured as part of a special exhibition at the University of Toronto’s Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, running from November 16 to December 16, 2017 (alas, it will only feature a video and documentation of her work, and not the actual camper itself), as well as in a special spread in Canadian Art magazine.

And 2017 BFA grad James Fermor has also been named the BC provincial winner in the same competition, earning him $7,500. His work will also appear in the same Toronto exhibit.

Finally, current third-year student Cassidy Luteijn made the news this summer as one of the finalists for a Canada 150 condom wrapper design contest. Her uniquely “Canadian” imagery includes a sexy beaver and a moose with underwear draped on its antlers. The story has been reported by the Martlet, CBC Radio, the Huffington Post and others.

 

 

 

 

2017 MFA show is Pending Approval

Looking for the very best in emerging contemporary art practice? Don’t miss the annual MFA exhibition at UVic’s Department of Visual Arts. Ironically titled Pending Approval, this year’s MFA exhibit features work by five graduating artists: Evan Locke, Heather Koning, Maddy Knott, Carrie Walker and Tlehpik Hjalmer Wenstob.

Pending Approval runs daily April 29 to May 6, with a 7pm opening on Saturday April 29, in UVic’s Visual Arts building.

One of Evan Locke’s “Ley Lines” paintings

Evan Locke’s painting exhibit Ley Lines explores the idea of paintings as tools promoting a conscious awareness of architectural space, and the viewer’s presence within it.

“The immediacy of a direct correlation between a mark and its origin allows painting to shift from abstraction to actuality and become a practical artifact of an event taken place,” Locke explains. “The expression of the artist’s hand is replaced by depictions of causality — obviating process and engendering a confrontation with reality.”

With the application of paint wholly facilitated by the structure itself, each piece reveals the nature of its own existence. “The paintings are simultaneously recording medium and implement,” he says. “Time and space become visually attributed and confrontational to the psychological aesthetic experience.”

From Heather Koning’s “Inertia”

Heather Koning’s exhibit Inertia is a mechanized sculptural installation where she has created kinetic objects speaking to perceptions of structural powers — physical or social — and their assumed function. All the works are made from found materials and old appliances.

“My art practice is a way to find order in today’s constant flow of information, to make sense of the world and its challenges, the changes and the constants,” says Koning. “The walls of my studio echo with noise. The politics of the world, conflicts and social imbalances breach my space through electronic screens and radio waves. “

Inertia surrounds the viewer with a roar of sound and activity. Each object has a task, a motion to perform. Some require the viewer’s presence to move, while others self-regulate or work continuously, perpetually trying to negotiate and reorder the gallery space.

“The objects stand in as physical metaphors for existing forms of power, spaces and rules that inform how humans navigate and experience the world,” she explains. “I created these objects to draw attention to perceived boundaries, anticipated actions and humorous motions of futility as metaphors for bureaucracy and public space.”

One of Maddy Knott’s sculptural pieces

Maddy Knott’s sculptural exhibit Dressing Up Daydreams considers the interaction of structures with organic forms and the idea of a codependency or an alteration existing between these forms.

“My work considers structures, such as the mind and patterns,” she explains. “I question these structures and our relationship to them, and how as an organic form encroaches on a structure, both elements are forced to change. These themes reflect my interest in the corruption of memory and how memories become altered over time.”

Using unexpected materials in her pieces allows Knott the chance to interpret their properties and consider how far she can exploit said material; every new material offers new challenges, as well as components of chance and unpredictability.

“Something magical happens when you blur lines in the art world,” she says. “it’s nice to make your own rules. I want the materials to allow the viewer to embrace how odd the works are and present them with a position of curiosity.”

From Carrie Walker’s “The Circle Hunt”

Carrie Walker’s exhibition, The Circle Hunt, is the culmination of her decade-long fascination with a historical event called The Great Pennsylvania Circle Hunt (or The Great Slaughter). Feeling harassed by wolves and mountain lions, the settlers and colonists in the area decided to organize a great animal drive, with 200 armed men and boys forming a circle 30 miles in diameter — and killing every animal within its boundaries.

“To the best of my knowledge, there exists only two written records of this event — one published in 1990 and another in 1917,” she explains. “Since first reading about the circle hunt, I have struggled to find a way to make manifest the numbers of animals killed.”

Indeed, the 1917 account lists a staggering tally: 109 wolves, 41 mountain lions, 112 foxes, 114 bobcats, 111 buffalo, 17 black bears (and one white bear), 198 deer, 12 wolverines, 3 beavers, 2 elk, and more than 500 smaller animals.

Walker says she at first considered producing a large volume drawing project with a single drawing for each animal killed — over 1,200 drawings would be required — but the written information surrounding each image provided a context she couldn’t ignore: a childʼs first hunt, offers of bobcats for sale, advice on drowning skunks.“[It’s] rife with the contradictions and complications that riddle the relationship between human and non-human animals.”

Rather than a drawing project, Walker instead compiled a book containing a photograph for each animal killed during the Great Slaughter, along with the URL of the webpage on which it was found and select excerpts of text from the webpage. Included in her exhibit is a single drawing is: a life-size representation of the Anson Panther — one of the last panthers to have been killed in Pennsylvania before the species was extirpated in the mid-1800s.

From Tlehpik Hjalmer Wenstob’s “Transfigurations”

Finally, Tlehpik Hjalmer Wenstob‘s exhibit Transfigurations seeks a balance between methodology and mythology by imbuing an Indigenous sensibility into such ubiquitous West Coast objects as a telephone pole, a Styrofoam cooler, and a stack of two-by-fours.

“I’m looking to shed light on both cultural understandings and Canadian politics as it relates to Indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest,” says the Nuu-Chah-Nulth artist from the Tla-­O-­Qui-­Aht First Nations.

In relation to the large demographic in Canada, Wenstob looks to redefine titles such as “First Nations” art — an overly broad term that he resents — within the contemporary art world. “I see my work as a way to begin conversations and break down preconceived notions and stereotypes of ‘First Nations’ culture and art.”

Using such commonplace objects as oil barrels and second-grade lumber, Wenstob recreates totem poles to create a broader conversation around overlooked objects now seen as a figurehead of “Canada” while also continuing on his traditional and political role as a Nuu-­Chah-­Nulth carver.

By creating work accessible to both Indigenous and non-­Indigenous people, he sees his work as a way to begin conversations and break down preconceived notions and stereotypes of “First Nations” culture and art — while also telling the truth about history. “It’s important to create a dialogue around our ever-changing environment, as it relates to resource extraction, inaccessibility to territory and an urban relationship to the land, dislocated from home.”

Pending Approval runs daily April 29 to May 6, with a 7pm opening on Saturday April 29, in UVic’s Visual Arts building.

 

MFA Lindsay Delaronde named Victoria’s Indigenous Artist in Residence

The city’s visual arts scene became even more inclusive with the March 8 news that Lindsay Delaronde has been named Victoria’s inaugural Indigenous Artist in Residence.

Visual Arts alumna Lindsay Delaronde (photo: PRZ)

Delaronde, an Iroquois Mohawk woman born and raised on the Kahnawake reservation outside of Montreal, is also a multi‐disciplinary Visual Arts MFA alumna (2010) and has been a professional practicing artist for the past five years. In 2015, she was one of three artists-in-residence at the Royal BC Museum (along with fellow Visual Arts alumnus Gareth Gaudin); her work was in the spotlight with her 2016-17 exhibit In Defiance at UVic’s Legacy Gallery, and she was also a featured speaker at UVic’s Diversity Research Forum in January 2017.

“I hope to create artworks that reflect the values of this land, which are cultivated and nurtured by the Indigenous peoples of this territory,” she says. “I see my role as a way to bring awareness to and acknowledge that reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples is a process, one in which I can facilitate a collaborative approach for creating strong relationships to produce co-created art projects in Victoria.”

Delaronde began making art at a young age, practicing traditional forms of art making such as beadwork and cultural crafts. She began her journey to become a professional artist by travelling to the West Coast and obtaining her BFA at the Emily Carr Institute of Art & Design.

She creates work directly related to being an Indigenous woman in contemporary mainstream society, and has worked in mediums ranging from printmaking (including silkscreen printing and photos transfers) to painting, drawing and video — all with the motivation to expand the evolution of Indigenous peoples and their histories. Her intention is to construct Indigenous perspectives within Western society to bring forth truth and reconciliation through the act of creation and visual understanding.

For her one-year term as Indigenous Artist in Residence, Delaronde will work with the community and City staff to produce a range of artistic works; she will also have an opportunity to create collaborative artwork with the City’s Artist in Residence, Luke Ramsey, who was appointed in fall 2016. She will work 20 hours per week as an independent contractor (March 2017 to March 2018) for a total fee of $42,000, funded by the City’s Art in Public Places Reserve Fund. Artwork materials, fabrication and installation may be funded by a capital project’s budget, with up to $30,000 from the Art in Public Places Reserve Fund.

Lindsay Delaronde running a corn doll workshop at Legacy Gallery in 2016 (photo: Corina Fischer)

“My goal and my purpose for the residency is really to pave the way for young emerging indigenous artists and youth, and help them understand that anything is possible,” Delaronde said in this Victoria News interview.  “Everyone can stop and take a look at how art has helped them in their lives or how creativity has help someone through something or see something differently or be inspired by art . . . We all have these experiences so one thing that’s important is really helping people to personalize their own relationship to artwork and artwork in the city and what that means.”

One of six artists who applied for the position — which was open to First Nations, Inuit and Métis artists and artist teams working in any artistic discipline who reside in the Capital Region, including the Gulf Islands — submissions were evaluated based on artistic excellence, written interest, and knowledge and understanding of the cultural heritage and legacy of the area. Experience with community engagement and a desire to create artwork for and in the public realm were required.

’Namgis nation chief Rande Cook — a member of the City’s Art in Public Places Committee, and the current Audain Professor of Contemporary Art Practice of the Pacific Northwest for the department of Visual Arts — feels Delaronde is a good fit for what the City of Victoria has declared the Year of Reconciliation. “At a time where love, respect, unity and art come together, let’s all follow in the path as Lindsay paints and creates towards a brighter future,” he says. “Reconciliation is an act we as people must feel from within before we can dance unified to the heart of Mother Earth.”

Delaronde speaking at the 2017 Diversity Research Forum

Delaronde also recently completed her second Master’s degree at UVic, in Indigenous Communities Counselling Psychology. As she recounted in this Focus magazine interview, having experienced domestic violence and trauma in her youth, Delaronde has always turned to art-making for solace; realizing how an art practice helped her in her own healing, she has been finding points of cohesion. “As time went on, I was really interested in narrative therapy, person-centred therapy . . .  We don’t heal in isolation. Our worldview is about coming together and doing ceremonies so we could be visible; we could be seen. We could be part of community. The individual healing is the group healing—one is the other.”

She is already planning a multidisciplinary performative piece, titled A CHoRD, to take place at Victoria’s Legislature on June 25, 2017. Co-created with local choreographer Monique Salez  to enact a new accord reflecting the potential for a rallying point between cultures, politics, ages, and herstories, A CHoRD will “appropriate the colonial legislative system to dismantle existing hypocrisies and injustices while proposing new partnerships with an eye toward the potential for a contemporary and inclusive recreation where women’s voices, bodies and politics are reclaimed.”

Street art performance by Lindsay Delaronde (photo: Michael Tessel)

Want to get involved? Performers and activated audience members are needed, and you can find out more at an informational meet & greet, 3 to 5pm Sunday, March 19, at Raino Dance, 715 Yates (3rd floor).

You can also see footage of Delaronde’s 2015 Unceded Voices interactive street art performance piece here. “I dressed Iroquois regalia approaching local Montrealers and asking if they knew what First Nations territory they were on?” she said at the time. “What do they know of Kahnawake and Mohawk people? Interesting and upsetting responses in relation the lack of knowledge people have. So I did an acknowledgment of territory and educated them on who we are as Onkwehonwe people.”

We’ll  be excited to see the impact — both immediate and long-term — this extraordinary Fine Arts graduate has on Victoria during her year of residency.

“Our women have always carved”

Carolyn Butler Palmer with one of Ellen Neel’s masks in the Legacy Gallery exhibit

The newest exhibit at UVic’s Legacy Gallery Downtown seeks to correct gendered colonial myths with works by Ellen Neel, a woman carver of the Northwest Coast.

Ellen Newman Neel (Kwagiulth, Kwickwasutaineuk and ‘Namgis) is often described as the first Northwest Coast woman carver. A prolific artist, she was only 49 years old when she passed away in the 1960s. But her defiance of gender barriers and federal law carries deep resonance for all Canadians to this day—and now within the context of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee’s calls to action—and her legendary impact and artistic legacies live on in the work of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

The first exhibition of Neel’s work in more than 50 years is showing at UVic’s Legacy Art Gallery Downtown until April 1.

Exhibit co-curator and Art History and Visual Studies professor Carolyn Butler Palmer was assisted throughout the process by two advising curators, David A. Neel (Neel’s grandson and the son of David Lyle Neel) and Lou-ann Ika’wega Neel (her granddaughter and the daughter of Neel’s son Ted). The exhibit includes artwork from six generations of the Neel family, including David’s two children.

The Globe and Mail recently featured a story on Neel and the exhibit in its national arts section. Lou-ann was interviewed by The Globe. She said that it’s “‘really a colonial idea that our women didn’t carve. Our women have always carved. I’ve already heard a few people say, “Well, you know, our grandmother was also a carver.” Good, I want to hear about her. Let’s talk about her, too. Because all of our communities need these role models to come from the last couple of generations and encourage our young girls and women to pursue the arts, too.’”

The exhibit was also covered in these articles by both the Times Colonist and Oak Bay News.

Mary Jo Hughes (left) and Butler Palmer at the exhibit opening (Photo: Corina Fischer)

Born in Alert Bay in 1916, Neel learned during the 1920s to carve from her grandfather—the eminent master carver Yakuglas/Charlie James—at a time when the Indigenous art of carving was banned in Canada under the Indian Act. She then launched her artistic career in the 1940s during the potlatch prohibition when carving was rare and the idea of a woman carver was even rarer still.

Butler Palmer, also UVic’s Williams Legacy Chair, worked for 15 years on research in support of the exhibit at UVic’s downtown public art gallery and a book project. “Ellen Neel was a remarkable woman,” she says. “Seven decades before the TRC published its findings, Neel graciously and very publically supported the rights of Indigenous people, to fish, to fair wages, to an education and to make art. Neel was also an important role model and mentor for young artists such as Bill Reid, Art Thompson and Robert Davidson. It is hard to imagine the Northwest Coast art world today without the foundation laid by Neel in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s.”

Director of UVic Legacy Art Galleries Mary Jo Hughes adds, “We are honoured to be able to facilitate this exhibition and be able to mobilize the important research by Dr. Butler Palmer and the Neel family. This project brings to public notice Ellen Neel who, perhaps unbeknownst to many of our gallery visitors, played such a pivotal role in the art of the northwest.”

Ellen Neel’s family attending the exhibit’s opening (Photo: Corina Fischer)

In 1947, with the ban still in place, Neel established her own carving business. She opened a retail outlet in Stanley Park, The Totem Arts Shop, in 1951 where she taught her children to make art. They carved hundreds of items destined for the tourist market. She also produced monumental and miniature memorial poles, including The Wonderbird Pole of 1953 for White Spot Restaurants, as well as an extensive collection including masks, hand puppets, textiles, jewelry and totemware ceramics.

Neel designed the famous Totemland Pole too, which was a commission from a tourism organization with hundreds of the miniature poles gifted to visiting dignitaries, as well as other people beyond BC including Bob Hope and Katharine Hepburn.

As she told a UBC audience during a keynote address in 1948: “Were it not for the interest created by the tourist trade, the universities and the museums, we would no longer have any of our people capable of producing this art. I have strived in all my work, to retain the authentic, but I find it difficult to obtain a portion of the price necessary to do a really fine piece of work. Only when there is an adequate response to efforts to retain the best of our art will it be possible to train the younger generation to appreciate their own cultural achievements.”

—Written by Tara Sharpe. This piece originally ran in UVic’s Ring newspaper