Shelly Niro's M: Stories of Women art exhibit running now at Centre3 is an entry point for anyone into Aboriginal issues and the Iroquois creation story, says Interim Program Coordinator Ingrid Mayrhofer.
"It gives us, as contemporary women, a connection — an entry point to the images Shelly has provided," Mayrhofer said. "There's so many layers and there's so many messages and observations in it."
Niro is known for artistic depictions that challenge traditional images of Aboriginal people. She was raised on the Six Nations Reserve near Brantford, Ont., and is a member of the Six Nations Reserve, Turtle Clan, Bay of Quinte Mohawk.
M: Stories of Women is a multidisciplinary effort that blends traditional photography and photo editing with static images to create pieces that tell the story of Skywoman, the heart of an Iroquois creation story. In the legend, Skywoman is considered to have created life on Earth after she falls through a hole in the sky.
"Every one of these women in the pictures is Skywoman in some way," Mayrhofer said. "Some of them are contemporary situations. Any woman can get into trouble and need help." Niro's photos blend self-portraits with shots of her friends and her daughter to serve as a commentary on social issues. And while a textbook understanding of Iroquois legend and Aboriginal issues would certainly help gallery-goers to delve deep into the exhibit, it's not a prerequisite, Mayrhofer says.
While she doesn't necessarily have a total understanding of the thematic underpinnings of M: Stories of Women, Mayrhofer still manages a deep appreciation for the 10 image exhibit, she says.
"I can appreciate the work at the level that I can enter it," she said.
M: Stories of Women is on display in Centre3 Gallery at 173 James Street North until Feb. 23. For more information, visit Shelleyniro.ca.