After the colourful members’ show that saw the walls of the Campbell River Art gallery packed with breathtaking local art, at first glance the space seems fairly empty now that the new exhibition has opened.
The two pieces that take up the most space on the walls are, in fact, poems, and one wall features screen shots from a piece of performance art that was filmed, but you have to get up close and personal to pick up on the details.
While the visuals seem sparse, once viewers immerse themselves in the works, the room fills with emotion and big thoughts.
“Inspired by a line by Mohawk poet Janet Rogers, this exhibition redefines ideas about Canada and it’s 500 year old relationship with Turtle Island through de-colonial poets, mythology and contemporary, multi-disciplinary Indigenous art practices,” said Shannon Webb-Campbell, guest curator of the new exhibit at the Campbell River Art Gallery.
Recover All That Is Ours opened on March 1 and features poems by Gwen Benaway and Janet Rogers and art by Lindsay Dobbin, Meagan Musseau, Meryl McMaster, Becca Taylor and Breanna and Niki Little.
Also new, in the satellite cases in the lobby of the gallery are three new, commissioned drawings by Walter Scott, of his ongoing Wendy cartoon.
“They talk about a little bit of anxiety in the art world,” said Vicky Chainey Gagnon, executive director and chief curator at the gallery.
All of the artists featured in the new exhibition are First Nations.
“These exhibitions, both Walter Scott and Recover All That is Ours, feature contemporary Indigenous artists and poets and they are very important to our community as well as the global world that we share,” said Chainey Gagnon. “They’re a way to talk about culture, a way to create new language to unhinge some of our histories and poetry that infuses the politics of our world today.”
Janet Rogers’ poem Make Sound, directs readers to walk on earth’s surface beside each other and with dignity, awakened, connected to stars, recalling our sound, said Webb-Campbell.
“This sonic and visual work invites viewers to awaken, reconnect and honour soul memory.”
To juxtapose Rogers’ poem, inviting viewers to Make Sound, is Lindsay Dobbin’s invitation to her audience to listen to the landscape with her Intertidal Cymbal Works.
“When you play a traditional drum you do not only hear the drum but the spirit of the animal, the tree, the place,’ says Dobbin,” Webb-Campbell said.
The connection to the land is also explored in the peices by Meryl McMaster.
“Through an intrinsic and ancestral connection to the land, Plains Cree artist Meryl McMaster’s photographic work connects the past, dreams and land through a tethering of red thread,” Webb-Campbell explained.
The work explores identity, self and indigenous knowledge systems, she added.
“Through embodiment and childlike innocence, McMaster’s work reconnects to the land, the body and spirit through elements of whimsy, ancestral knowing and contemplation.”
Holy Wild, a poem by two-spirit, trans poet Gwen Benaway dominates one of the walls in the gallery. It is provocative, sensual and sexual.
“Benaway’s poetic intervention, Holy Wild, is a rallying cry in the wilderness of our time,” Webb-Campbell said. “Benaway’s work begins and ends with the land and her poetic voice defies expectations and subverts category while examining intersections of identity.”
The eight film stills along the next wall are taken from a video that captured Meagan Musso’s land based performance in the wilderness near Banff.
She works with notions of memory, language and relationship between land and body, object and narrative, Webb-Campbell said.
In her performance, Musso wore her aunt’s seal skin boots and braided flagging tape.
Becca Taylor and Breanna and Niki Little also created a video, reclaiming their traditions, teachings and genetic memory by preparing animal hides in the Cree tradition, but in an urban setting.
“This is about process, about working with the hides and blood memory…. All of our grandmothers and great grandmothers prepared animal hide and it was lost for a generation or two. We reclaim this traditional practice in an urban environment,” Webb-Campbell said.
Also featured are a pair of earrings that were commissioned for the cover of Webb-Campbell’s new book, Who Took My Sister?
“Recover All That Is Ours fuses artistic strategies like performance, land based creation, video, photography installation, poetry, each visual artist and poet seeks to shed light on reclamation, resurgence and the land,” Webb-Campbell said.
The exhibition runs through April 25.