The collected artworks of thirteen Indigenous artists are united in one space to create Picturing Ourselves, a group exhibition spanning four decades, curated by Lee-Ann Martin and on loan from the Indigenous Art Centre, Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC) in Gatineau Quebec. Picturing Ourselves refutes the narrative of the ‘vanishing race’ and instead, recounts a contemporary story of Indigeneity through each artists’ interpretation of portraiture.
“Picturing Ourselves includes portraits of self, family and community from each artist’s perspective. The images often confront the troubled history of Indigenous peoples and representation associated with the colonial lens,” writes Martin in her curatorial statement. “Indigenous artists choose portraiture not only to confront stereotypical misrepresentations of Indigenous people but also to celebrate their community and their culture. This exhibition invites viewers to consider the artists’ reflections and reworking of many continuing misrepresentations.”
The works pay homage to the ongoing effort to preserve and celebrate Indigenous culture, while other work captures with intimate detail the people who are embodying the fight against the ‘vanishing race’ narrative, such as Aurthur Renwick’s Tom (2006) and William Noah’s Mother and Daughter (2008). Additional works seek to capture the viewer with tongue-in-cheek humour, such as Glenna Matoush’s mixed-media piece titled My Great Grandfather, Chief Yellow Head, Who’s Buried under McDonald’s on Yonge Street in Toronto (1995).
“This is the second exhibition in recent years that we have loaned from the Indigenous Arts Centre,” says Nelson Museum Executive Director, Astrid Heyerdahl. “The Indigenous Arts Centre is an incredible and important body that cares for and expands the Indigenous Art Collection – one of the most important collections of art in Canada. We are honoured to bring this work to Nelson.”
Kanienʼkehá꞉ka, Tyendinaga curator and scholar Lee-Ann Martin was the Curator of Contemporary Aboriginal Art at the Canadian Museum of Civilization. She was previously Head Curator at the Mackenzie Art Gallery in Regina, and is a 2019 Governor General Award recipient. Martin created the internationally acclaimed installation Resilience, which featured the work of 50 Indigenous artists on billboards across the country.
Picturing Ourselves opens at the Nelson Museum, Archives & Gallery on Friday, February 17 at 7pm and runs through June 3. The exhibition is generously loaned by Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada. For more information about this and other exhibitions and programs, visit nelsonmuseum.ca