Featured Image: Untitled (Joyful Man), Jessie Oonark (issue cover)
I’m always a little nervous when visiting institutions like the National Gallery of Canada (NGC) to view survey exhibitions that include Indigenous art. I often find myself unsatisfied, and sometimes even enraged, by the way Indigenous works are presented in Canada’s major institutions. Contextualized with basic didactics that often avoid delving into complex subject matter, it would seem Indigenous artists are widely curated for non-Indigenous audiences. From the didactics that are made to be as base and easily understood as possible, perhaps even avoidant of delving into complex subject matter, to the works chosen to reify an Indigenous art cannon void of sexual diversity and gender variance, it’s safe to assume that large galleries curate to a viewership th imagine largely comprised of settlers.
I was therefore pleasantly surprised with the thoughtful curation of Inuit work throughout the NGC’s rehang of their Canadian and Indigenous Art: 1968 to Present galleries. I’ll admit: the Inuit art show was majority comprised the typical forms we have come to consider Inuit art: a great majority predictable sculptural forms that already hold significance within a westernized Inuit art cannon. Still, I found myself, as I often do when looking at galleried collections of Inuit art, craving a new perspective on Inuit art; the radically progressive vision of Inuit art that I know to be experimental, diverse and flourishing, a reimagined and non-reified Inuit art cannon complete with gender and sexual diversity. I found myself wondering, Why do we keep leaving Inuit art in the past, and what are the colonial implications of doing so?