Wendy Red Star, The Four Seasons, 2006
Many different stories are told through the works on display at the 2nd edition of The Contemporary Native Art Biennial at Art Mûr in Montreal, aptly titled Storytelling. Some are familiar, some radically unique, and others are retold in ways that critique their original meaning and significance. What unites the varied narratives is a focus on identity; at the heart of the exhibition is the question of what it means to be of an Indigenous background in contemporary North America.
Meryl McMaster, Fawn, 2010
Interweaving cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and contemporary practices, the exhibition presents dynamic explorations of identity. In Meryl McMaster’s eerily beautiful portrait photography spiritually significant animals have been digitally projected onto her father’s face, emphasizing the interconnectedness of Aboriginal identity, nature and the mythologies that unite the two. Leonard Getinthecar’s (Nicholas & Jerrod Galanin) Space Invaders combines pop culture references from the duo’s youth with traditional elements of their heritage in a portrayal of the conflict between colonial powers and Aboriginal peoples painted onto a deer hide canvas in the style of the iconic 80s video game of the same name.
Leonard Getinthecar (Nicholas & Jerrod Galanin), Space Invaders, 2013
Kent Monkman and Wendy Red Star’s works compliment each other as critical interpretations of familiar narratives. Monkman’s paintings serve as re-tellings of Canadian history, which emphasize an Aboriginal presence and challenge colonial, Eurocentric narratives that have excluded the oppression of Aboriginal peoples and traditions. Similarly, Wendy Red Star’s self-portraits in glaringly artificial nature scenes target the dioramas commonly seen in natural history museums. The artificiality of her own dioramas asks us to consider the integrity of those we see in museums, to question what might be missing.
Kent Monkman, East vs. West, 2011
As a whole, the exhibition serves as an evocative expression of Indigenous identity and mounts a strong critique against the incomplete and sometimes fictitious identities that have too often been projected onto the Indigenous peoples of North America.