In many of Canada’s traditional Aboriginal languages, there is no word for art: Everyday objects were simply crafted to be functional and beautiful. This rich aesthetic tradition is on display in galleries nationwide this autumn.
In Memoriam: Inuit Artists Remembered (Winnipeg Art Gallery, Aug. 11—Nov. 17) honours groundbreakers like Kenojuak Ashevak—whose fantastical print Enchanted Owl became iconic after it was featured on a Canada Post stamp—and Lucy Tasseor Tutsweetok, whose stone sculptures earned her international recognition in a medium dominated by men.
The multimedia exhibit Ghost Dance: Activism and Resistance in Indigenous Art (Ryerson Image Centre, Toronto, Sept. 18—Dec. 15) examines the artist’s role in the struggle for Aboriginal rights and sovereignty, as activist, chronicler and provocateur. The “Indian Group of Seven” inhabits all three roles.
7: Professional Native Indian Artists Inc. (MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina, Sept. 21—Jan. 12, 2014) features the work of the Canadian collective that joined forces in 1974 to demand mainstream recognition of their work. The group was spearheaded by Daphne Odjig, who later became the first female First Nations artist with a solo show at the National Gallery of Canada. (Many of her drawings and paintings explore erotic themes—rare in Aboriginal art.)
Finally, pioneering metal, wood and argillite carver Charles Edenshaw lived at the turn of the 19th century, but the pieces featured in the first major survey of the iconic B.C. Haida artist (Vancouver Art Gallery, Oct. 26—Feb. 2, 2014) have a timeless elegance that belies their age, from painted hats and baskets to ornamental stone chests and carved silver bracelets.