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Contemporary Native Voices: 10 Indigenous Artists at Art Toronto 2021

Contemporary Art Toronto - G. Peter Jemison, Creation Story White Wolf
G. Peter Jemison, Creation Story White Wolf, 2015. Acrylic on canvas. Courtesy of K Art Gallery. VIEW ON ARTLAND.

By Adam Hencz

Last week, Art Toronto has returned for its 2021 edition featuring more than 60 internationally renowned galleries and 80 booths. Even though the fair’s in-person event at the Metro Toronto Convention Center is over, Art Toronto 2021 is running online until November 7th, through a compelling virtual reality art fair experience, exclusively powered by Artland.

Selected Contemporary Indigenous Artists at Art Toronto 2021

This year’s edition of Canada’s international art fair has embraced the diversity of the nation more than ever and has proven to be a significant step towards a wider representation of indigenous artists, with nearly a third of the participating galleries displaying works from various First Nations artists. In particular, five art galleries have shown exclusively indigenous artists, and the booths of four of them — K Art Gallery based in Buffalo, Marion Scott Gallery, and Fazakas Gallery from Vancouver; and Toronto art gallery Feheley Fine Art — can also be visited virtually on Artland. We take a look at the diverse art projects of ten contemporary indigenous artists, from emerging to well-established, and experience their multifaceted practices by visiting the vivid virtual reality fair booths featuring the artists.

Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds

Art Toronto Art Fair - Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds, Dine Body Bag
Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds, Dine Body Bag, 2013. Print. Courtesy of K Art Gallery.

An advocate for indigenous communities, Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds’ work unites indigenous histories and text-based conceptual art. The artist works in a wide range of mediums, including large-scale drawings, acrylic paintings, prints, and outdoor sculptures made of porcelain. His works shown at Art Toronto 2021 include pieces such as his celebrated signs listing the names of tribes once occupying the city of New York which are elements of the Standing Rock Awakens the World series – Heap of Birds’ response to the 2016 Dakota Access Pipeline protests – but also Dine Body Bag, a blue monoprint belonging to a group of prints from a 16-year time range. The installation title refers to the death of the artist’s wife’s grandfather and how the family had to return him for burial in the back of a pick-up truck from Utah to Arizona. The internationally renowned artist, who belongs to the Cheyenne and Arapaho Nation tribes, had solo shows and exhibited at the most renowned art establishments of the world, including MoMA, the Grand Palais in Paris, and the 2007 Venice Biennale.

Luzene Hill

Luzene Hill, Untitled, 2019
Luzene Hill, Untitled, 2019. Ink on paper. Courtesy of K Art Gallery.

Living and working in Atlanta, Georgia, Luzene Hill is an established multimedia artist and an enrolled citizen of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. She is widely known for her works dealing with the issue of violence against women and female empowerment, as well as her installations and performance pieces informed by Native American culture prior to European contact. Her ink drawings of feminine pride shown by K Art Gallery at Art Toronto 2021 are reflections on her past traumas as a victim of sexual assault.

G. Peter Jemison

G. Peter Jemison, Maple Shadows, 2001. Acrylic on paper. Courtesy of K Art Gallery.

Multimedia artist and painter G. Peter Jemison is a true transnational artist whose career spans almost half a century. His naturalist paintings, prints, lithographs, and woodcuts express his personal experience of the spiritually charged Haudenosaunee culture, but also tap into the tensions between Euro-American and Indigenous American ways of life, and the long-standing fight for Native American land rights restoration. Jemison’s ongoing exhibition at K Art Gallery, titled Ga’nigöi:yoh: can also be experienced virtually.

Visit K Art Gallery’s booth on Artland or take a virtual tour of the booth down below.

Megan Kyak-Monteith

Art Toronto 2021, indigenous art, Megan Kyak-Monteith, Pond Inlet View, 2021.
Megan Kyak-Monteith, Pond Inlet View, 2021. Watercolor painting. Courtesy of Marion Scott Gallery.

Megan Kyak-Monteith is a young emerging artist working primarily with painting and digital illustration. Originally from Pond Inlet, since her 2019 graduation from NSCAD University she has been working in her studio in Halifax, creating paintings that explore her personal memories growing up in Nunavut territory. Her watercolor series presented at Art Toronto 2021 also speaks to wider audiences as it evokes the shared experiences Inuits have within their longing for being back in their communities.

Asinnajaq

Asinnajaq, Rock Piece (Ahuriri Edition), 2016. Digital video.
Asinnajaq, Rock Piece (Ahuriri Edition), 2016. Digital video. Courtesy of Marion Scott Gallery.

Also known as Isabella Weetaluktuk, Asinnajaq is an Inuk visual artist, editor, and filmmaker currently living and working in Montréal. Exploring her Inuit heritage is central to the artist’s practice since she comes from the Northern community of Inukjuak. Asinnajaq has curated various Inuit art and video projects and is also noted for curating the Canadian pavilion at the 2019 Venice Biennale, an exhibition that illuminated Canada’s forced relocation of the Inuit people.

Visit Marion Scott Gallery’s booth on Artland or take a virtual tour of the booth down below.

Jason Baerg

Jason Baerg, Pimohceskanas ᐱᒧᐦᒉᐢᑲᓇᐢ / Pathway, 2019.
Jason Baerg, Pimohceskanas ᐱᒧᐦᒉᐢᑲᓇᐢ / Pathway, 2019. Acrylic on wood panel. Courtesy of Fazakas Gallery.

One of the highlights of Art Toronto this year is the three-dimensional paintings and painted sculptures of Jason Baerg. The Cree Métis artist studies his own cultural roots by merging new media and installation with classical artistic forms like painting and sculpture. His work is deeply involved in the transmission of indigenous knowledge and opens the way for contemporary artists alike to experiment with new, interactive, and immersive technologies to demonstrate the importance of a collaborative and co-habitable future.

Visit Fazakas Gallery’s booth on Artland or take a virtual tour of the booth down below.

Darcie Bernhardt

Indigenous artists - Art Toronto 2021.Darcie Bernhardt, Black Muktuk, 2021.
Darcie Bernhardt, Black Muktuk, 2021. Oil on canvas. Courtesy of Feheley Fine Arts.

The 2021 edition of the fair has also provided exposure and new audiences for emerging visual artists like Darcie Bernhardt. The artist’s home – Tuktoyaktuk – and the contemporary life in northern communities in general serve as the central theme through her work of oil paintings. Besides figurative works exploring intergenerational memories and connectedness, Bernhardt has recently been experimenting with abstract art, bringing contrasting colors, delicate lines, and naturalistic motifs into play. Her first solo show was shown at Feheley Fine Art gallery in June 2021.

Jutai Toonoo

Jutai Toonoo, Portrait, 2010.
Jutai Toonoo, Portrait, 2010. Acrylic on canvas. Courtesy of Feheley Fine Arts.

Jutai Toonoo was an artist born and based in Cape Dorset on southern Baffin Island, Nunavut. A major contributor to the shift towards contemporary ideas in Inuit drawing, he used oil pastels as the primary medium to develop his idiosyncratic and expressionistic style, becoming an original voice in contemporary Inuit art. Numerous works by him have found their way into prominent private and public collections across the American continent.

Niap

Niap, 03.06.21, Art Toronto 2021
Niap, 03.06.21, 2021. Watercolor and ink. Courtesy of Feheley Fine Arts.
Niap, 10.06.21, Art Toronto 2021
Niap, 10.06.21. Watercolor and ink. Courtesy of Feheley Fine Arts.

Niap, also known as Nancy Saunders, divides her time between Montréal and her home community in Kuujjuaq, Nunavik. At Art Toronto, the multimedia artist has exhibited a series of vertical watercolor and ink landscapes called Silavut. Each drawing’s title provides the date it was made, depicting lingering sunsets, cloudy waterscapes, and the darkness of the sea.

Ningiukulu Teevee

Ningiukulu Teevee, The Raven, 2020.
Ningiukulu Teevee, The Raven, 2020. Colored pencil drawing. Courtesy of Feheley Fine Arts.

Ningiukulu Teevee has been celebrated for her color pencil drawings that combine Inuit folklore and contemporary life in Nunavut. The well-established artist has become internationally known for her unique style of incorporating contemporary aesthetics with traditional iconography and visual storytelling. Her drawings, rich in mythical references, reveal an artist ​​who uses her practice as the cardinal means of cultural transmission for future generations.

Visit Feheley Fine Arts’ booth on Artland or take a virtual tour of the booth down below.

Relevant sources to learn more

Visit Art Toronto 2021 online HERE.

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