February 9 – March 30, 2019

Nanabozho's Sisters

Works by Rebecca Belmore, Lori Blondeau, Dana Claxton, Thirza Cuthand, Rosalie Favell, Ursula Johnson, Shelley Niro & Anna Tsouhlarakis
Curated by Wanda Nanibush

Organized by Dalhousie Art Gallery

Nanabozho’s Sisters is an exhibition that acknowledges the history of Indigenous women’s contribution to the deployment of humour, irony, and satire within the visual arts. Nanabozho is a ‘trickster’ figure in Anishinaabe stories who can transform into any gender or animal form, and we often find ourselves laughing at their actions or admiring their bravery. Through the Trickster spirit all things that seem entrenched, held sacred, formalized, and organized can be disrupted, scattered, disorganized, and transformed. The Trickster spirit is released in this exhibition through the artistic strategies of masquerade, mimicry, parody, ironic reversals, comedic scenerios, anachronistic combinations, and satirical creations.

Spanning more than thirty years, the exhibition presents work by artists who explore representation and self-representation of Indigenous women and culture—using the Trickster’s toolkit. These works use the transformative power of humour to undermine, and create alternatives to, colonialist stereotypes, and to honour and empower Indigenous women’s bodies—in all their lived glory.

About the Artists

A member of Lac Seul First Nation (Anishinaabe), Rebecca Belmore is an internationally recognized multidisciplinary artist currently residing in Toronto. Rooted in the political and social realities of Indigenous communities, Belmore’s works make evocative connections among bodies, land and language. Her exhibitions: include Rebecca Belmore: Facing the Monumental, Art Gallery of Ontario (2018), Biinjiya'iing Onji (From Inside), documenta 14 (2017); KWE: The Work of Rebecca Belmore, Justina M. Barnicke Gallery (2011); Rebecca Belmore: Rising to the Occasion, Vancouver Art Gallery (2008); and Fountain, Venice Biennale (2005). Performances include: Facing the Monumental (2012); Victorious (2011); X (2010); Vigil (2002); Wild (2001), and Creation or Death We Will Win (1991). Belmore’s sculptures and installations include Wave Sound, Parks Canada, 2017; Trace, Canadian Museum for Human Rights (2014), and Ayum-ee-aawach Oomama-mowan: Speaking to Their Mother (performances 1991, 1992, 1996 and 2008). Belmore received the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts in 2013, the Hnatyshyn Visual Arts Award in 2009, the Jack and Doris Shadbolt Foundation’s VIVA Award in 2004, and Honorary Doctorates from Emily Carr (2017) and OCADU (2005). Also in 2005, she was Canada’s official representative at the Venice Biennale. In 2016, Rebecca was awarded the prestigious Gershon Iskowitz Prize by the Gershon Iskowitz Foundation in partnership with the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Lori Blondeau is an interdisciplinary artist working primarily in performance/photography and is a Assistant Professor at the University of Manitoba in the School of Art.  Blondeau holds an MFA from the University of Saskatchewan winning the Humanities & Fine Arts Thesis Award and she apprentice with James Luna from 1998-2001. In addition to her extensive exhibition history, Blondeau is co-founder of the Indigenous artist collective, TRIBE, and has sat on the Advisory Panel for Visual Arts for the Canada Council for the Arts. Blondeau has exhibited and performed nationally and internationally including the Banff Centre; Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon; Open Space, Victoria; and FOFA, Montreal. In 2007, Blondeau was part of the Requickening project with artist Shelly Niro at the Venice Biennale and recently had a solo exhibition at Urban Shaman Contemporary Aboriginal Art Gallery, Winnipeg and was part of the Scotia Bank Contact Festival in Toronto. Her art is held in both public gallery and private collections.

Dana Claxton is a critically acclaimed exhibiting artist and film/videomaker. She is recognized as a leading Lakota First Nations contemporary artist and cultural liaison in Canada and the United States. She works in film, video, photography, single and multi channel video installation and performance art. Her practice investigates beauty, the body, the socio-political and the spiritual. Her work has been shown and collected internationally. She has received numerous awards including the VIVA Award and the Eiteljorg Fellowship. She is an Associate Professor in the Department of Visual Art, Art History and Theory at the University of British Columbia. Claxton was born in Yorkton Saskatchewan and her family reserve is Wood Mountain, Lakota First Nations located in Southwest Saskatchewan.  Her paternal Euro-Canadian Grandmother taught her how to harvest and preserve food and her maternal Lakota grandmother taught her to seek justice.

Thirza Jean Cuthand was born in Regina, Saskatchewan in 1978. Since 1995 they’ve made experimental narrative videos and performances which have exhibited in festivals and galleries internationally, including Tribeca Film Festival in New York City, Mix Brasil Festival of Sexual Diversity in Sao Paolo, Oberhausen International Kurzfilmtage in Germany, the National Gallery in Ottawa, and Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. They completed a BFA in Film and Video at ECUAD, and an MA in Media Production at Ryerson University. They are currently developing a feature film and a video game. They are Plains Cree and Scots, and reside in Toronto.

Rosalie Favell is a photo-based artist, born in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Drawing inspiration from her family history and Métis (Cree/English) heritage, she uses a variety of sources, from family albums to popular culture, to present a complex self-portrait of her experiences as a contemporary aboriginal woman. Her work has appeared in exhibitions in Canada, the US, Scotland, France, Taiwan and Australia. Numerous institutions have acquired her artwork including: National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa), National Gallery (Ottawa), Indian and Inuit Art Centres, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (DIAND) (Ottawa), and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian (Washington, D.C.). She has received numerous grants, and won prestigious awards such as the Chalmers Fellowship, the Victor Martyn Lynch-Staunten Award and the Karsh Award and the Paul de Hueck and Norman Walford Career Achievement Awards. A graduate of Ryerson Polytechnic Institute, Rosalie holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of New Mexico. She is a member of the Royal Canadian Academy Of Arts. In Ottawa, Rosalie has taught at Carleton University, the University of Ottawa and Discovery University.

Ursula Johnson is an emerging performance and installation artist of Mi’kmaw First Nation ancestry. She graduated from the Nova Scotia College of Art & Designand has participated in over 30 group shows and 5 solo exhibitions. Her performances are often place-based and employ cooperative didactic intervention.
Through the medium of durational performance art she enters into laborious tasks/circumstances that create repetitive strain on her body and mind while creating tension with the viewer. Johnson has been selected as a finalist for the Salt Spring National Prize,

and has twice been long listed for the Sobey Art Award, winning in 2017. She has presented publicly in lectures, keynote addresses and hosted a number of community forums around topics of ‘Indigenous Self-Determination through Art’ and the ‘Environmental Responsibility and Sustainability in Contemporary Indigenous Art Practices’, ‘The History and Impacts of Economics on The Indigenous Object’ as well as ‘Renegotiating Conservation: Revisiting the Roles and Responsibilities of Cultural Institutions in Canada regarding Indigenous Made Objects'.

Shelley Niro is a member of the Six Nations Reserve, Bay of Quinte Kanien’kehaka (Mohawk) Nation, Turtle Clan. Her work includes painting, beadwork, sculpture, installation, film and photography. With directness and humour, she crafts new narratives based on the past, pop culture, and her own lived experience. These new narratives force us to reflect on history making, representation and memory, while her work champions self-actualization and liberation. Niro has a BFA from OCA and MFA from the University of Western Ontario. Shelley Niro was named the recipient of both a Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts and the Scotiabank Photography Award in 2017.

Anna Tsouhlarakis works in sculpture, installation, video and performance.  She received her BA from Dartmouth College and MFA from Yale University.  She has participated in several art residencies including Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and Yaddo.  Her work has been included in exhibitions both nationally and internationally.  She has been awarded various grants and fellowships including the Eiteljorg Fellowship for Native American Contemporary Art.  Her recent awards include an Artist Fellowship from the Harpo Foundation, DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities as well as a Native Arts and Cultures Foundation Fellowship.  She currently resides in Washington, DC with her partner, 3 children and trusty dog.