AUDAIN ART MUSEUM, Whistler BC – Nov 14, 2020 – April 11, 2021
by Michael Turner
Anishinaabekwe artist Rebecca Belmore has lived and worked in some of Canada’s largest cities (Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg), exhibited globally (documenta 14, 51st Venice Biennale, 4th Bienal de la Habana) and had a profound influence on generations of artists, curators and writers. To describe her as one of Canada’s leading artists would be accepted by most everyone but the artist and those who know her best. At issue here is not her achievements but the language that frames them – the possessive part of “Canada’s.”
Along with language, bodies and land form the basis of Belmore’s evocative multidisciplinary practice. For her first mature work, Belmore produced Twelve Angry Crinolines (1987), a performance that featured the artist parading in a complicated pastiche of Victorian-era crockery and couture; Disneyfied cultural stereotypes (Pocahontas braids wired up like antennae); and materials related to her life growing up on the Lac Seul First Nation reserve (buckskin). The occasion was the Duke and Duchess of York’s visit to Thunder Bay in the summer of 1987. For the garment’s bustle, Belmore attached a scaled-down beaver dam; caught within its sticks was a “collection” of kitschy royal memorabilia.
For the Audain, Belmore has devised a nighttime performance set in the museum’s floodplain meadow and a related rock and netting installation in the Tom & Teresa Gautreau Galleries. Central to these works is a recognition of the growing disparity between wealth and poverty in Canada, with a particular focus on Vancouver, Whistler and the Sea-to-Sky Highway that links them. An additional work is Body of Water (2019), an upended and tarpaulined canoe sculpture commissioned for the 16th Istanbul Biennial.