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Beyond the Bead. Barry Ace and Sharl G. Smith. Curator: Peter Flannery. Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery, Waterloo, Ontario. September 23, 2023 to January 7, 2024. Exhibition vernissage: Sunday, October 1, 2023.

The Canadian Clay & Glass Gallery is an award-winning national institution based in Waterloo Region (Ontario) celebrating the art and craft of clay, glass, and enamel. In an inclusive community space and cultural hub, they engage artists and the public through exhibitions and collaborate in accessible education programming. They amplify diverse and often untold stories to open dialogue and inspire social change.

Beyond the Bead (Peter Flannery, Curator)

“Stitch by stitch, bead by bead; patterns, connections, and stories come to life. For tens of thousands of years, people from cultures around the world have used beadwork as trade items, decoration, spiritual objects, and political and cultural signifiers. First through natural materials, and later glass and metals, beaded goods have remained an important part of our visual and material culture. Contemporary beadwork continues this trajectory; holding space for history while exploring new and innovative approaches to art and decoration.

Beyond the Bead features the work of Barry Ace and Sharl G. Smith, two contemporary Canadian artists whose practices push one of the oldest forms of cultural art to new and engaging realms. Through contemporary materials and a respect for the diverse cultural significance of this practice, each artist demonstrates the continued importance of this medium. Exploring issues of identity, femininity, the environment, and the value of beaded craft as an artform, the works in this exhibition unleash the full potential of this medium. Ace’s inclusion of electronic e-waste in his beaded works transforms and recontextualizes historic Anishinaabeg material culture in response to the digital age. In Smith’s work, architecture, sculpture, and beading are combined in a technique called bead-stitching—both in intricate small-scale pieces and massive beaded works composed of mirror-finished stainless-steel and hand-made glass.

In the first exhibition of beadwork to be presented at the Canadian Clay & Glass Gallery, Barry Ace and Sharl G. Smith combine the medium of glass, contemporary technology, and a technique connected to thousands of years of cultural tradition. Diverse in their approaches to this medium and the stories that they tell, they are united by their efforts to honour a culture passed down through generations and to push beadwork to new realms.”

Beyond the Bead Catalogue

Waawashkesh Dodem (Deer Clan) Automata Bandolier and Flight of the mgizwak (eagles) Automata are available for purchase from Heffel Galleries.