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Indigenous artists featured at Art Toronto art fair this weekend

Indigenous artists being featured at Art Toronto this weekend at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre say the amount and variety of Indigenous work at the art fair shows its diversity.

Over 60 galleries will be participating in the fair, with five galleries exclusively representing Indigenous creators and 22 galleries displaying works from various Indigenous artists. There will also be a virtual component online from Oct 29 to  Nov 7.

One of the fair’s featured artists is Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, a Haida artist from British Columbia. He will be showing three works. 

Two are examinations of classic Haida icons, mutli-coloured works on paper. The third work is from a series called Coppers from the Hood. They are made out of repurposed automobile hoods, covered in copper and decorated with Haida designs. The series has been exhibited in several places, including the British Museum in London, England.

“I think that a lot of work that comes out of the classic idiom, ‘Indigenous Art’ is our statement to a non-Indigenous audience,” he said. 

“The reason why they’re statements is because of the Canadian history of relationships to Indigenous nations. It’s that lack of understanding that prevents us from really appreciating the deeper nuance of Indigenous art.”

Toronto artist has live performances 

Maria Hupfield is a Toronto-based artist from Wasauksing First Nation who specializes in performance, sculpture and installations. 

She will have a number of works in two different booths and will be using a jingle necklace that will assist her to “speak” during live performance “interventions.”

Maria Hupfield – Truth Machine _ Lie Detector, 2017. (Submitted by Galerie Hugues Charbonneau)

She said it was a natural progression for her to become an artist. Her parents met in art school. 

“It’s always been a part of my reality,” she said.

“My dad was talking about Norval Morrisseau, my mom would paint. In my family, I have a lot of people that are artistic and talented . . . this is just part of everything that was around me in my life.” 

Hupfield is also an assistant professor with University of Toronto at Mississauga where she runs the Indigenous Creations Studio.  

Heiltsuk artist’s works inspired by heritage 

A Heiltsuk artist from Waglisla (Bella Bella), B.C., now residing in Sechelt, Shawn Hunt said he grew up in a family of artists and is now carrying on the tradition in his own family. 

“I never made a decision to become an artist,” he said. 

“Now looking back at it, I realized I was an artist my whole life. Everything I created was art. That’s what I was into, I drew everyday, all day and continued to do that my whole life. I can see it in my kids now.”

Painting by Shawn Hunt using the formline style, shown at Art Toronto 2021. (Submitted by Shawn Hunt)

Hunt has two paintings and a sculpture included in this weekend’s art fair. 

His paintings use what is called a formline style, which is a Northwest coast design principle. Hunt also adds different elements to each carving, making it even more multi-dimensional.

Sculpture by Shawn Hunt, shown at Art Toronto, 2021. (Submitted by Shawn Hunt)

“If you look out west here, the way our people lived, we had art on everything,” he said.

“Everything that we did had an element of art to it, so I mean, why wouldn’t we be good at this?”

Hunt said he hopes the fair helps to show the diversity and possibly dispel some myths about Indigenous people and their artwork.

“Above all it’s going to amplify our voices to have so much work out there.”


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