FAC RESIDENCY ARTIST HIGHLIGHT
At the beginning of my short history as an artist I was driven by love for colours and textures. Then I felt compelled to speak about the consuming issue of negative body image. Through all of the stages I have gone through I felt obligated to play nice, to get along and say what I had to say quietly or even easier still-create work that said nothing. After a two week residency among like-minded women I feel energized and confident enough to confront uncomfortable facts. Make no mistake, there exists a war upon women. Not only in faraway countries whose religions and customs are foreign to us. Not just in the locales we gain familiarity with only off the spoon of the media that feed us. It is here. It is now. I feel assaulted after listening to the media stories judging, conjecture, preaching, vilifying and further victimizing Aboriginal women. This is not just the opinion of the media, I have heard words spoken about these women that feel like shards of glass underfoot. There is no way to walk safely or softly upon them. There is no way to unsay them once they are uttered.
It is not only about educating our young men how to be kind and respectful as they are not the only culprits in this list of crimes. Every nation on this Mother earth is culpable. Canada is not the exception, it is the rule. We are all to blame. Subsequent to the crime it is not merely enough to hand out apologies and condolences as though they were coupons that have expired. I feel we must face brutal truths. The work contained within ‘Mine is but a tear in a river’ makes me feel obliged to note that some may find it uncomfortable to view. Sometimes a little discomfort is required. Flesh is a messy business after all. But I felt compelled to create it. The exterior of the clothing has been painted with encaustic to re-create flesh. We wear our clothing to clarify our identity and the threads are then used by forensics to identify us. Our skin is protective, a barrier to the elements while intact and alive. Our flesh underneath the skin has no regard for color or creed. The flesh is the commonality that binds all women together. It is our common denominator and our common commodity.
I don’t want to talk calmly and quietly anymore. I feel no need to justify my work or my opinion concerning how easily Aboriginal women are discarded. It is as though they were never really there in the first place. This exhibition features 1,181 photos on transparent 8.5” x 11” pages. Each photo is of a pieces of clothing that has been painted with encaustic paint to replicate the flesh below our skin. As of May 16 2015 the RCMP confirmed there are 1,181 documented cases of missing or murdered Aboriginal women in Canada from over the last three decades. I have taken one photo for each one of these women. The pieces of clothing have been photographed everywhere from Queen’s Park, Ottawa Parliament Buildings, police stations, court houses, major news organizations as well as the streets, malls and meeting places of Canadians. I have also videotaped it in several locations. I chose to photograph the clothing on the steps of the four churches involved in residential schools, Presbyterian, Anglican, Catholic and United. I have photographed them in bodies of water, dumpsters, wooded areas, busy city streets while Canadians passed by and subway stations.These photos are exhibited suspended from the ceiling from different weights of red threads tied to clips. I have used red thread to illustrate our connection to one another as well as signify the threads used in the clothing that may be used by forensics to identify these women. I have used transparent pages so that the image is therefore seen from both side and the brutality of them is transparent to the viewer. The clothing was kindly donated by my friends, family and strangers who feel the importance of the project.
There are also several small shopping carts which have been painted flat black and these as well as the clothing will be installed on the gallery floor as though discarded. The shopping carts were found in many of the locations around Ontario where the photos were taken. To me they represent how we discard what we consume and it further illustrates Aboriginal women as also disposable. Several of the carts could be suspended from the ceiling if the space allows. There are also several Washi scrolls on which every Aboriginal murdered or missing woman’s name has been printed. These have a mounting strip so that the paper can flow down the walls of the gallery or from the ceiling and pool on the floor.
The completion of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission findings as well as the release of the report from Justice Sinclair illustrate the need for both an inquiry and a viable action plan to address the issue of murdered and missing Aboriginal women. But first, we must reach the Canadian public in order to raise awareness about more than just the statistics. I believe that this terribly visceral representation of the realities of the issue will help to do this.