Gibsons Public Art Gallery (GPAG) is marking National Indigenous History Month with a highly varied mixed-media exhibition by artist Dionne Paul (Ximiq), entitled Indigenous Land Based Practice.
Paul was born on B.C.’s central coast and raised from infancy in Sechelt and is a member of both the shíshálh Nation and Nuxalk Nation. Her heritage and talent are evident in every piece in the show, from provocative acrylic paintings to fabric cushions, to high-art home décor. The sets of fine wood-and-resin serving platters Paul has brought include elements of wood, plant, and stone.
“I harvest [materials] from the landscape – from the earth, from the forest, from the ocean,” Paul said in an interview. She has said she “co-creates with Mother Nature,” meaning that she is often surprised by what emerges in her practice.
“When I’m working with natural materials, like dyeing natural materials, carving natural materials, they don’t always turn out the exact way that you would want,” said Paul. “You have to be flexible in that way.”
Included in the exhibit is a striking art installation called Subversive Acts of Resistance. A short plinth holds a wooden chest containing a set of silverware. If you look closely at the cutlery, you will see an added feature (engraved by Heiltsuk carver Dean Hunt). Text projected on the gallery wall explains the whole story behind this re-creation, a story which is at once appalling and infuriating, yet is subversively inspiring.
Paul’s exhibition coincides this month with news of the discovery of the remains of 215 children in graves on the grounds of Kamloops Indian Residential School, which operated until the late 1970s. Paul said one of the serving platters in her show “will be donated to the National Indigenous Peoples Day raffle giveaway for the [shíshálh] Nation to honour the 215 children.”
Indigenous Land Based Practice is on until July 4.