British Columbia

Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun evokes a spectrum of emotions with 'Unceded Territories'

Themes of Canada's colonial past run deep in the work of Aboriginal artist Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun, and he's not afraid to be outspoken about it.

Aboriginal artist's new Museum of Anthropology exhibition grapples with Canada's colonial past

Artist Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun's new exhibit, Unceded Territories, is on display now at UBC's Museum of Anthropology. (Margaret Gallagher/CBC)

Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun has been an artist since he was five years old, living in a residential school.

When the law was finally changed to allow him to leave the school, he encountered the work of artists like Rembrandt, Vermeer and Michelangelo for the first time.

"We're not talking about some other foreign country," he told The Early Edition's Margaret Gallagher. "We're talking about Canada, that had to change the law for a native to leave the reservation. What kind of democracy are we really talking about?"

Needless to say, themes of Canada's colonial past run deep in Yuxweluptun's work, and he's not afraid to be outspoken about it.

A new show at 'the morgue'

Yuxweluptun's paintings are instantly recognizable for his distinctive use of colour and surrealism in depictions of West Coast imagery, drawing on his Coast Salish and Okanagan background.

A collection of his work is currently on display at UBC's Museum of Anthropology in a new show called "Unceded Territories." It's the first time Yuxweluptun's work has been displayed at the museum — an institution he has long referred to as "the morgue."

"[The Museum of Anthropology] is a colonial measurement of the destruction of somebody else's culture," he said. "I think that I am painting destruction. What better place to bring it to?"

For Yuxweluptun, the role of the artist is endlessly multifaceted.

"I'm there to entertain you. I'm there to make you cry," he said. "I'm there for you to hate me. I'm there to make you love me. I'm there to give you joy. I'm there to make you upset."

"I'm there to make you think."

With files from Margaret Gallagher and CBC's The Early Edition.