Canadian Art: A Year in Relations

In 2018, I interviewed Shelly Niro on the occasion of her solo retrospective at the Ryerson Image Centre. She told me that her choice of materials was related to what she could afford financially. Even our most respected, senior Indigenous artists have struggled with access and what they could realistically create, especially early in their careers. Still, our ugly art persits. Beadwork might not always meet the standard of a formalist vision of Indigenous art, but Canadian art markets are ugly too: ugly with histories of slavery and genocide. To paraphrase hooks, I remain passionately committed to an aesthetic that recognizes the artistry in the everyday, our capacity for joy and beauty that refused the traumatic lens of identity-based Indigenous art, and especially the lives of poor, visibly racialized people; for me, this is the radical political possibility of Indigenous art.

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