My work looks at the ways that Black people are positioned in the Canadian landscape as having little or no history in the spaces they inhabit. Taking form as artistic constructions, my sculptures and painting are articulations on how Blackness becomes both hyper-visible and invisible, purposefully or unintended in these spaces.
Growing up in Toronto, my family often had outings to many parts of Northern Ontario. We passed through towns like Holland Landing and other rural areas numerous times; and though aware of the white settlements, we remained ignorant of the substantial Black presence in these regions. Stories about Black Canadian Geographies have been, and continue to be, unearthed. These revelations demonstrate how lived experience and contributions of Black individuals and communities have been forgotten and covered up, and contribute to misrepresentation and racist rhetoric that displaces Black belonging and agency in Canada.
My work aims to re-route these ideas and remind us that the lives of a people, though concealed, survive in the land and the bones and the memories in a variety of ways.
One such work, A Mobile and Visible Carriage, retrieves written, archival, and present-day data to produce contemporary art objects that articulate a story that is inherently Canadian. In 1837, Thornton and Lucy Blackburn's taxicab 'The City' was the first and only cab in Upper Canada (present-day southern Ontario), and has influenced the colours of our Toronto Transit systems (TTC) today. This sculpture, as object, as language, as animator, visualizes an active past and present Black presence, in Canada, and makes visible the Blackburn's lived experience in Toronto.
Charmaine Lurch is a visual artist and arts educator in Toronto.