scar series


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  • scar series

    In this series of ‘sculptural’ works on canvas, the canvas itself is ‘wounded’ and then ‘healed’ with sinew stitching. Sometimes this 'scar' is embellished with carved sticks that pierce the canvas surface for the length of the sinew seam.

    The visually bold, simple and even celebratory presentation of these scars promotes a similar attitude towards ourselves and our inherent wounds and weaknesses, and how important honesty and acceptance is to our paths of recovery and growth. The omnipresent scars running down the centre of otherwise seemingly very ‘Western’ abstract paintings also explore how the awareness and experience of colonial history and culture impact the creative practices of contemporary Indigenous artists. They are both wry commentary on our situation and celebration of our survival and accomplishments.

    I first began making the double-pointed sticks intuitively, and using them sculpturally - being almost compulsively drawn to them in process and physicality. I found out some years later that the use of uncannily similar sticks as ceremonial offerings was once widespread in Cree & Anishnawbe territory, and still continues with some people today.

    Both the symbolic ‘wounding/healing’ of a fabric surface and the use of these cedar sticks (both as evidence of a healing process) first happened in my 1999 live artwork, 'Blue Lodge' (performed at the Performance at the End of the Twentieth Century festival in Vancouver). In this piece I sliced through the translucent, luminescent covering of a small tipi four times and in four directions, then sutured these cuts with the small cedar sticks.

    In the scar series, the double-pointed sticks can be read in a number of ways. They may represent elements of repair, security, trial, or adornment.

    Piercing the canvas as they do, the sticks also look like the pegs used to seal the front surfaces of a tipi. These 'scars' may also be read as seams - helping create structures which provide shelter and/or safety.

    The sticks also look like those used to pierce sundancers’ skin and connect them to the ceremony’s centre pole. Associated with this rite, and yet abstracted, they come to symbolize passage through trail, both individual and communal, by choice or circumstance.

    In addition to being sutured and pierced, the surface of these canvasses are often painted in bright or metallic hues, and a monochrome uniformity. As in the 'braided' series wall pieces, the influence of colour field painting artists such as Rothko, as well as the bold and simple use of colour in precolonial plains clothing - particularly by the Arapaho - are strong influences. The choice and use of colour is also designed to express and evoke different emotional responses - another reference to personal and universal elements of healing process. in some scar works, however, the canvas is left bare, with more focus being placed on the various aesthetic and metaphoric qualities of the scar.

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