The Vancouver-based artist explores images of indigenous women in new exhibition
A still from Uplifting, a digital video by Dana Claxton appearing in Made to Be Ready, the artist's new exhibition at Vancouver's Audain Gallery. (Dana Claxton)
Leah Collins · CBC ArtsJanuary 14, 2016
"When people think of indigenous women, what do they see? What's the stereotype?" It's a question Dana Claxton often asks her students at the University of British Columbia, where the multi-disciplinary visual artist is an associate professor in the department of art history, visual art and theory.
"I'll tell them I don't want to know the answer, you just think about what yours is," Claxton tells CBC Arts.
Since the early '90s, Claxton has encouraged people well beyond her classroom to consider these ideas through her practice in film, video, photography and performance art, work that's part of collections including the Vancouver Art Gallery and the National Gallery of Canada.
Baby Girlz Gotta Mustang, a lightjet C-print photograph by Dana Claxton. From Mustang Suite. (Dana Claxton/Winsor Gallery)
Claxton hails from Saskatchewan's Lakota First Nations-Wood Mountain reserve, and is now based in Vancouver. Through her art, she explores themes of beauty and representation, especially as related to indigenous people. Made to Be Ready, her latest exhibition — appearing atVancouver's Audain Gallery to March 12 — follows the themes of much of her oeuvre, whether that means the playful Indian Candy, which took over billboards in seven Canadian cities as part of the 2014 Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, or TheMustang Suite, vibrant portraits that merge western and indigenous aesthetics with a touch of irony.
"Indigenous people have been structurally dehumanized in all facets of life in North America, whether it's through education, through the state, through the church," says Claxton. "In some ways, my work has attempted to show us as human beings."
Marcel Barbeau Le tumulte à la mâchoire crispée 1946 Oil on canvas 76.8 x 89.3 cm Collection of the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal / photo Richard-Max Tremblay
Marcel Barbeau, one of the first Canadian painters to embrace abstraction, died on Saturday, January 2, at the age of 90 in Montreal. His career spanned seven decades.
Born in 1925 in Montreal, Barbeau was one of the first non-figurative painters in Canada, embracing abstraction before it became popular. During his life, his art was exhibited at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, and was collected by the British Museum, among other institutions.
Barbeau’s more than four thousand artworks also include sculpture, sound art and public art.
Taught in his teens by Paul-Émile Borduas, Barbeau was part of the Automatistes, a group led by that artist. Like Borduas, Barbeau was also an original signatory of the Refus global manifesto of 1948, which called for liberation from typical Quebec values of the time.
“When I was younger, I spent a lot of time on my works, and sometimes I actually ruined them by doing too much,” Barbeau commented in a 2013 Canada Council video made on the occasion of him winning a Governor General’s Award.
“I don’t look at [art] as work. It’s never work—it’s a need.” Barbeau told filmmaker Luc Bourdon. “What interests me in what I do is to always make sure there is that magical aspect where the work takes me by surprise.”
“It’s like a gift. The will disappears completely, making way for joy.”
In addition to continuing to practice, Barbeau also attended openings of his work this past fall at Montreal’s Galerie Michel-Ange and at the Maison des arts de Laval. The Laval exhibition, a group show focusing on op-art, continues until February 7.
The Barbeau family will receive visitors on January 23 at 1 p.m. at Salon Dallaire Memoria on Boulevard St-Laurent in Montreal. This will be followed by a more formal homage starting at 5:30 p.m. Then, on January 25, Barbeau’s funeral will take place at the Mount Royal Cemetery.
Andy Dixon is a Vancouver-bred, NYC-based artist whose work has the power to uplift and enliven any spirit. In his most recent solo exhibit entitled ‘Leisure Studies’ at the Rebecca Hossack Gallery in Nolita, Andy explores elite subject matter through the use of his bold color schemes. Tennis players’ faces and bodies appear technicolored on a bubblegum pink court while polo players atop horses, mallets swinging high, race across a light turquoise field. The movement and energy is palpable and it’s hard not to smile at the playful, vibrant hues. We were fortunate to visit Andy in his Brooklyn studio and get a little insight into the life of an artist. Check out more of his work here.
What is your background?
I wish there was a short answer for that. The truth is it’s unclear when childhood doodling turned into something serious. I had my first solo in 2004 but, honestly, painting was a backburner hobby at the time, secondary to music. I’ve been painting full time for four years, I’d say.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
I think all artists draw inspiration from every single morsel of stimuli they encounter. I’m always absorbing and filing away, be it a colour combo on the subway, a pattern on someone’s jacket, etc. It all goes in a file somewhere in my brain to be accessed later. Also, I’ve always said that my true medium is culture and people. Some of my main sources of inspiration are those who have mastered the depiction of the absurdity of life, love, and desire: Woody Allen, Milan Kundera, Oscar Wilde, Proust.
How has your work evolved?
My work is definitely naturally getting tidier. I guess I’m accidentally becoming a good painter. I’m gonna need to rewrite my artist statement soon, apparently.
Who are some artists you admire?
Of course, I come from the school of Matisse so definitely him and those who followed: Hockney, Jonas Wood, Guy Yanai. Also, Manet. Manet is next-level.
What’s your typical day like?
Normally I wake up around 10 and lazily make coffee while exploring every feasible way to procrastinate answering emails. Then I head to the studio and work until the evening, when I start drinking wine and, if it’s a good night, conversing with pals over the little things in life that make it worth living.
What are some of your favorite spots in Brooklyn?
Oh man. I live in Williamsburg where literally all there is to do is eat and drink your way through lists of spots your friends have recommended. I don’t know where to start. I really like this place right by my apartment calledPokito. The vibes are just right.
If you weren’t an artist, you would be…
Some kind of non-violent criminal like a cat burglar or bank heist mastermind. Or maybe I’d make rap beats.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
You can’t garner respect for work you haven’t done yet.
Dana Claxton, Cultural Belongings, 2015. Firebox (LED Lightbox with Transmounted Lightjet Duratrans). Image courtesy of the artist.
Audain Gallery, Vancouver
January 14 - March 12, 2016
Dana Claxton's practice explores the spiritual, political and cultural life of Indigenous peoples of the Americas, specifically those of Plains First Nations. Her films, videos, photographs, multi-channel installations and performances critique the representation of Indigenous people within Western anthropology, art and entertainment.
Claxton's new photographs and video works in Made To Be Ready are informed by her attention to Indigenous womanhoodand sovereignty. Drawing on the ideas of Anishinaabe writer and scholar Gerald Vizenor, particularly his notion of survivance which unifies survival and resilience as a means of resistance, Claxton's photos picture Indigenous women commanding their own mediation of cultural, political and spiritual ways of being and doing.
The women in these works captivate the life force of Lakota cultural belongings that are to be actively used in domestic work, warfare, social space and ritual. They counter the commodification of Indigenous aesthetics and the preservation of "artifacts." The works are charged with Claxton’s concept of the Indigenous made-to-be-ready, which draws attention to the everyday aura of aesthetic forms, inverting the concept of the modernist ready-made and its attention to the aesthetic aura of everyday forms.
Claxton is from the Lakota First Nations-Wood Mountain reserve in Southwest Saskatchewan. She lives and works in Vancouver, where she is an Associate Professor in the Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory at the University of British Columbia. Her work has been shown internationally at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Walker Art Centre, Minneapolis; Eiteljorg Museum, Indianapolis; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney. She’s participated in the 17th Biennale of Sydney, 2010; La Biennale de Montréal, 2007; and Le Havre biennale d’art contemporain, 2006.
Angela Grossmann has been announced in The Vancouver Sun as a primary West Coast Artist that continues to shine. She has been mentioned alongside notable artists such as; Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, Scott Billings, Geoffrey Farmer, and Gathie Falk. Click here to view the article on "Models of Resistance" By Kevin Griffin.
install shot from Marion Scott Gallery
Click here to read the exhibition review by Danielle Egan in the 2012 summer Issue of Canadian Art