Slivers by Faye HeavyShield (Scott Benesiinaabandan)
As one member of the curatorial collective that worked on the show Close Encounters: The Next 500 Years, I met so many incredible artists from all over the world. It was not easy to narrow down the list of prospective artists, but I believe that the presented artworks on display in five venues across Winnipeg, really captured the essence of this show, which asked indigenous artists to imagine the future taking into account our past.
I was excited to have the The Winnipeg Art Gallery's imposingly grand Eckhardt Hall as a location for the exhibition. The hall's tyndall stone walls and floors, plus the 21-foot cathedral ceiling, has traditionally made this an ideal space for large-scale, heavy-looking, loud artwork. Lethbridge-based installation artist Faye HeavyShield took a crack at creating an original work in the hall for Close Encounters and her response remains one of my favourite moments within this wildly ambitious project.
I think one of the things that excited me most about HeavyShield's artistic practice is her ongoing interest in waterways. Naturally, her first step towards a site-specific Winnipeg artwork was to visit the Assiniboine and Red Rivers. I imagine her traveling along the elm-lined banks of our city on a rented water taxi, carefully observing the ebb and flow of the current as late August sunlight reflected off of the water's surface.
The digital images that HeavyShield shot that day were handcrafted into a series of small arrowhead shapes and methodically strung together into a grid that was hung from the ceiling of Eckhardt Hall. The finished piece, entitled slivers, may initially appear diminutive within the cavernous space, but therein lies its subtle, stoic, and subversive beauty. slivers operates as a window onto the often overlooked concerns around our water systems, standing small but firm against the Goliaths that threaten to overshadow this issue.
HeavyShield's Slivers reminds us to pay attention to the power of the understated and welcomes us to take a closer look.
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