Ahoy, ahoy!

We’ve moved onto to contemporary First Nations art, which is a huge category and also a favourite topic of mine.  The term “First Nations Art”often brings to mind the traditional black and red works, so popular as emblems in Canadian culture.  Off the top of my head, I know that I own a scarf, shot glass and stuffed bear that all bear traditional First Nations art work, in the style of various bands from the Pacific Northwest.  In my family’s home, the first thing you see when you enter is a beautiful traditional First Nations carving of Raven and Killer Whale.  These designs are very beautiful and widely recognized throughout Canada as art likely executed by someone of First Nations descent.

Haisla Raven

However, First Nations art has taken on a new direction in the recent years.  Traditionally, First Nations art was seen as an artifact, something to be placed in an ethnographic museum.  It was an art form that belonged to the past. When First Nations artists began creating contemporary art to reflect their situation in life.  When First Nations contemporary art began being placed into galleries, it was the source of confusion for many scholars and curators.  This new art had to be looked at in new ways, as the works did not fit into the context of European art history traditions.  These works could not be classified as artifacts, because they were being created in the here and now.  The First Nations people were proving that they had a culture that was alive and vibrant, not something that existed only in the past.

One of my favourite contemporary First Nations artists is Carl Beam.  We haven’t talked about him yet in class, but I am sure that we will at some point! Beam often uses the medium of collage in his works, and is not afraid to make very public political statements with his work.  Carl Beam works primarily with collage as a medium in his work.  He combines countless arrays of images into one whole piece, along with using paint, ink, writing or anything else he deems necessary to complete his message.  He aims to create collages that contain images that will mobilize and counter each other.  The images will often oppose one another, such as Native mythology juxtaposed with Christian imagery.  The images play off one another, provoking thought.  He wants his images to transpose time and space, to represent the First Nations person as not belonging to a particular time in history, but rather as being all encompassing and ever present.

The North American Iceberg by Carl Beam

That’s all!