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Spotlight on Indigenous artists at Beaux Arts

Pipe Beads from the series Code Switching, 2017, digital print. Digital print, 110 x 166 cm. (Courtesy CARCC and Art Mûr)

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) is shining a bright light on Onkwehón:we women, as the museum works to expand its representation of artists, who traditionally have not been as present in its halls and galleries in thepast.

Algonquin artist Nadia Myre’s “Tout ce Qui Rest – Scattered Remains” opened Wednesday at the MMFA, and will run alongside Atikamekw artists Eruoma Awashish and Meky Ottawa’s collaboration with Innu Jani Bellefleur-Kaltush in their installation “Kushapetshekan/Kosapitcikan – A Glimpse Into the Other World,” and Plains Cree/Siksika photographer Meryl McMaster’s series “In Between Worlds.”

Those wanting to check out all three in the series should hurry, as McMaster’s impressive collection of powerful and vibrant photographs will only hang until December 3.

Pipe from the series Code Switching, 2017, digital print, edition of 5. (Courtesy CARCC and Art Mûr)
Pipe from the series Code Switching, 2017, digital print, edition of 5. (Courtesy CARCC and Art Mûr)

The three collections serve as a powerful and poignant balance to the museum’s feature exhibit “Once upon a time… the Western,” previously reviewed in The Eastern Door (vol. 26. no. 42).

The western film genre has a distinctly male character running through it that promoted a fantastical stereotype of the cowboy and his Indian counterpart.

“If you’re a white man, you’re at the top of the values of that type of cinema, but if you’re Indigenous people, women, Chinese people, anything else, there’s no place for you,” said Genevieve-Goyer Ouimette, curator of Artist. Woman. Indigenous., the series featuring the Indigenous women artists.

The Western exhibit does create a brilliant and multi-faceted critique of the traditional genre, but, as Ouimette points out, it is often from a male perspective.

“At the end of the show, you have a lot of artwork that is a critique of the western genre, and a lot of them are created by Indigenous people, but it’s still very male,” said Ouimette. “So the museum created another response, a critical response in a way, with a series – Artist. Woman. Indigenous. – three exhibitions and two acquisitions.”
In addition to the exhibits the MMFA acquired art from Onkwehón:we artists Rebecca Belmore and Maria Hupfield, which adds to the story.

Nadia Myre (born in 1974), Indian Act, 2000-2002, glass beads, copy of page 41 of the Indian Act, adhesive tape, thread, felt. MMFA, gift of Stéphane Cauchies. (Courtesy MMFA, Christine Guest )
Nadia Myre (born in 1974), Indian Act, 2000-2002, glass beads, copy of page 41 of the Indian Act, adhesive tape, thread, felt. MMFA, gift of Stéphane Cauchies. (Courtesy MMFA, Christine Guest )

Taken as a whole, the exhibits throughout the MMFA reflect the museum’s work to break down stereotypes and structures traditionally seen in the art world where male dominance has, at times, been the rule of the day.

“I think people are more and more aware of stereotypes, and, with all the news you have also now about bad behaviour (by men), it’s important to show the creativity and to show on the same level actually,” said Ouimette. “It’s a start, but people are not used to seeing that many women in a museum and I think they will respond to it because actually, the work is good. This is the thing that is important, it’s not because they’re woman. The work is good and they need that place. People enjoy good work from any type of artist, so I think it’s welcome.”

Myre’s show runs to May, 2018, while Kushapetshekan/Kosaptitcikan will go until February 4, the same day “Once upon a time… The Western” closes.

danielr@easterndoor.com
Daniel J. Rowe
Daniel J. Rowe is an award-winning reporter and photographer originally from B.C. In addition to journalism, he produces and edits a Shakespeare-inspired blog and podcast called the Bard Brawl. His writing has also appeared in the Montreal Gazette, Canadian Press and U.S. Lacrosse magazine. His facial hair rotates with the season, and he’s recently discovered the genius of wearing a cowboy hat.
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