Curated by Gitxaala artist Leena Minifie and featuring artwork from six — predominantly Canadian — Indigenous artists across Turtle Island, the University of Winnipeg’s Gallery 1C03 is hosting When Raven Became Spider until Nov. 30.
Jennifer Gibson — curator of Gallery 1C03 — organized the exhibition’s stop at the U of W.
“We don’t have a school of fine arts at the University of Winnipeg,” she said.
“In terms of what we program here, we try to program exhibitions or artist’s work that we feel can connect to multiple streams of study.”
The touring exhibit — circulated by the Dunlop Art Gallery in Regina, Sask. — features artistic works that combine traditional Indigenous arts and storytelling with superhero and comic book imagery and styles.
The ubiquity of transformation through these forms inspired Minifie.
“With classic comic works, graphic novels and our own traditional stories, there’s always mention of transformation,” Minifie said.
“A lot of our stories are kind of based around the supernatural world and a lot of our stories maybe don’t get told in our traditional context anymore, but I wanted to talk about the contemporary and pop space […] how do these things combine? Where do our supernatural heroes go to? Is this a new form of them? Is graphic novels and comics the future?”
With these questions in mind, Minifie curated When Raven Became Spider to create a project depicting “powerful images of not only superceding and resilience […] but also sort of rising above [Indigenous] stereotypes and all the things we’re kind of burdened with everyday.”
The name When Raven Became Spider comes from a piece in the exhibit by Sonny Assu — an interdisciplinary artist from the Kwakwaka’wakw Nation. Assu depicts Raven as Spider-Man — the trickster interjected within the seams and webbing of the iconic spider suit.
Another artwork by Assu features the Hulk as “The Incredible Hamatsa” — the ceremony in which young men in the Kwakwaka’wakw Nation enter adulthood.
Regalia worn by Julianne Beaudin-Herney — who is of Cree, Mi’kmaq and Métis heritage — is the central focus of her neckbone Wonder Woman motif, illustrating the devastation of the buffalo on her nation’s traditional homeland.
Filmmaker Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers of the Kainai First Nation created A Red Girl’s Reasoning — a short film to help Indigenous women who have experienced sexual violence move forward empowered. In the film, the “super” girl Delia, played by Saulteaux-Cree and Métis actor Jessica Matten (Frontier, Burden of Truth), hunts down abusers of Indigenous girls and women.
Other pieces in the exhibit are from Nehiway artist Joi T. Arcand, Navajo artist Shaun Beyale and Port Gamble S’Kallam artist Jeffrey Veregge.
The exhibit is spectacular for those of all ages and anyone passing through downtown should take a chance to see the incredible pieces on display.
When Raven Became Spider runs until Nov. 30 at Gallery 1C03 and is free to the public. For more information visit uwinnipeg.ca.