Indigenous art exhibit unveiled at local museum

March 9, 2023   ·   0 Comments

By Paula Brown, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Museum of Dufferin (MoD) and the Dufferin County Cultural Resource Circle (DCCRC) have unveiled a new art exhibit featuring the works of Indigenous artists. 

Artists, members of the DCCRC, local leaders and community members gathered in the Lodge Gallery at the Museum of Dufferin last Friday (Match 3) to celebrate the new exhibit called, Our Story: Past & Present. 

“When we talk about our history there’s so much variety and people really don’t understand how we have to live in this world. The idea behind this show is to give the new generation of artists an opportunity to speak in their authentic voice, and express what it’s like to be them today; trying to find their place in the world they live in now, but not lose where they come from,” said Suzy Kies-Delong, DCCRC organizer of the exhibit.

“We want to share everything with everybody so they can enjoy the artwork and experience the stories behind them,” said Community Elder Karen Vandenberg. “We love to share our culture.”  

The Our Story: Past & Present exhibit features roughly 20 pieces of art from four Indigenous artists – Sharon Rigby, Josh Morley, Josy Thomas, and Janice Toulouse. 

Sharon Rigby is an emerging, self-taught Haudenosaunee/Anishinaabe artist from Akwesasne/Algonquin First Nations. Rigby’s piece, Mashkiki Makak, envisions the ability to overpower the words contained in the Indian Act by weaving pages of it directly into the medicine basket. 

“The whole concept of it was, that as a medicine woman, I would recognize that these papers were powerful and I needed to overcome the power with my own sacred medicines. I think the symbol of equality, with the two people standing side-by-side, really meant a lot to me because it didn’t matter what was in the papers, as long as we were treated fairly,” said Rigby. “It’s a healing journey and I’m glad to have something to show and to say.” 

Josh Morley is a self-taught Anishinaabe illustrator and screen printer from the Sturgeon Clan of Wabauskang First Nation and is based in Peterborough, Ont. Morley uses his work to raise awareness of environmental issues and sustainability and support the indigenous community. His series of five prints utilizes blacklight as a tool to encourage people to look beyond what they first see. 

“The theme that I was truing to get across in these pieces is impermanence, in ourselves and our environment and how we perceive it,” said Morley. “I though it was a good way to show how if we focus on something that comes to light, but we don’t pay attention, they can easily disappear. I want people to reflect more on their lives, how to live them in a happy way and to be respectful of our environment, and make everyday choices that help future generations.” 

Josy Thomas began his journey as an artist at a young age, learning of the Longhouse Teachings from his grandfather while he carved traditional masks for ceremonies. He graduated from the Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD) in 1998, and his latest solo exhibition, Twisted Spirit, was featured at the Leslie Grove Gallery in Toronto. Thomas’ sculpture, Twisted Spirit, explores the struggles of Indigenous men and women today to keep up with the modern way of life and stay true to their traditional ways. 

“This is my take on how difficult it is to walk that world, having my traditional beliefs but still trying to fit in with the mainstream,” said Thomas. 

Janice Toulouse is a senior Ojibwe artist, member of the Garden River First Nation and was raised in both Serpent River and Toronto. Toulouse was the first Indigenous graduate from Concordia University in Montreal, where she earned a Master of Fine Arts in 1985. She taught painting and art history for over 20 years before retiring in 2017. Toulouse’s painting, The Native Children’s Hidden Bones, is dedicated to the Indigenous children who didn’t make it home from residential schools. 

“This is a very sensitive topic for Indigenous people and I come from a history of family who’ve attended residential schools. It’s very important for all Canadians to be aware of the history of colonization, and this land came to be your homeland,” said Toulouse. “I would like people to come away, acknowledging those children who didn’t make it home and the survivors.” 

The Our Story: Past & Present exhibit will be on display at the Museum of Dufferin’s Lodge Gallery until Mar. 29.

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