OTTAWA ART GALLERY (Ottawa, Ontario)

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Barry Ace, Rosalie Favell, Gerald McMaster, Ron Noganosh, Jane Ash Poitras, Jeff Thomas

Wahsontiio Cross, Guest Curator
23 January – 10 May 2015
Opening: 22 January, 5:30 pm

The works in Home Away from Home address issues of space and place, belonging and home, as well as a relationship with landscape and the land. Whether interactions with nature, spiritual inquisitions or social and political interventions, the artists explore and engage with these subjects from varying, though intersecting, perspectives and Aboriginal cultural backgrounds.

Gerald McMaster, Ron Noganosh, and Jeff Thomas concern themselves with decolonization, inserting an Aboriginal narrative into specific moments in Canadian history. In response to the 1990 Mohawk Crisis in Québec, McMaster’s mixed-media painting references imagery that could be either the debris from the recently dismantled Berlin Wall, or the rocks that were hurled at the cars of Mohawks as they passed through Lasalle, Québec. As such, McMaster brings attention to the contradictory priorities of the government, media, and the Canadian public during this time. Thomas photographs his son Bear interacting with the Samuel de Champlain monument in Ottawa, thus inserting an Aboriginal perspective into this usually one-sided narrative. Noganosh constructs a shield using fragments of a Hudson’s Bay blanket and includes items, such as animal toys and money, to illustrate the economic and cultural trade-offs faced by Aboriginal peoples as a result of geographical and social displacement.

While Barry Ace’s work complicates issues of geographical boundaries and land rights, Rosalie Favell and Jane Ash Poitras deal with reconciling cultural identity and spiritual connection in a world of urbanization and globalization. Ace redraws the topography of North America as an Anishinabek territory by painting over a vinyl classroom map. He blurs borders with images and words that reference Anishnaabe history and knowledge relating to specific geographical areas. Favell, as part of a series of photographic portraits of Aboriginal artistic and cultural figures, shows the humanity, diversity and commonality of contemporary Aboriginal peoples. Poitras considers the spiritual, cultural, and historical connection to the environment in her mixed-media painting. Spirit Dream, Within the Four Winds (1998), the most recent work in the exhibition, illustrates the ongoing connection to history and tradition within an ever-changing social and cultural landscape.

The works reflect Indigenous perspectives often neglected in the historical narrative of this country, and as such they represent major missing realities within Canadian history.

Wahsontiio Cross, Guest Curator
PhD candidate in Cultural Mediations at
Carleton University

Download copy of OAG Winter 2015 Home Away from Home brochere (here)


Ottawa Magazine: Two Aboriginal Artists from Manitoulin Island