oskinikiskwēwak (Young Women)

    Friday, September 7, 2012 to Friday, October 26, 2012

    Opening
    • Friday, September 7, 2012 to Saturday, September 8, 2012
    Curator: Laura Margita Artist: Joi T. Arcand Critical text by: Cheryl L'Hirondelle Arcand’s 12 large digital prints appear to be a paradox of epic proportions. At first glance, we marvel at the clever mosaic-like interweaving of antiquated and nouveau imagery. We may even wonder why the artist is using such a politically incorrect format, as a calendar you would find in a garage in the 1930s. However, upon closer inspection oskinikiskwēwak, ironically teases us with a story of integrity, honour, survival and strength of character by presenting these young women in the guise of models from the popular culture of yesteryear – employing pinups, cutout calendar girls. With oskinikiskwēwak, the artist transposes her own faceted contemporary native identity, and like her earlier bodies of works, once again uses digital photography for time travel. Arcand is a photo-based artist from Muskeg Lake Cree Nation in Saskatchewan. She subverts the kitschy advertising by imbedding important Indigenous cultural values into portraits for passersby on Bank Street, in Ottawa, Canada. These colour-saturated backdrops are flattened and sentimentalized scenes of raw nature with the location obscured – we are at once nowhere and everywhere. A landscape upon which Indigenous people currently reside is obscure and romanticized by the public. In reality, the interstitial terrains have meaningful names and relationships for the Indigenous people who still live there. Where the appearances of these scenic backgrounds are reminiscent of the plein-aire style of Impressionist painting, this series exposes the reality of young native women in broad daylight. While the old saying is “girls will be girls” may hold true, the captions of these oskinikiswēwak, (pronounced oh-skin-ICK-sk-way-wuck, a Cree term that describes the age between female child and mature woman), reveal the many complex realities contemporary Indigenous people still face. Though the encoded textual riddles may be read at face value, much like the women they depict, there exist shades of deeply embedded cultural values. Instead of the revealing clothes the pin-up girls wear to advertise their sensuality, the oskinikiskwēwak wear jeans and long sleeved tops using their voices to reveal their flourishing sensuality; which is a journey they will end as elders in their communities. -Cheryl L'Hirondelle, 2012