UNCEEDED TERRITORIES: Museum of Anthropology

The rain in Vancouver last week was fitting for the closing day of Laurence Paul Yuxwelupton’s exhibition UNCEEDED TERRITORIES at the University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology.

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The following is directly form the MOA website:

Vancouver artist Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun, of Coast Salish and Okanagan descent, is showcased in this provocative exhibition of works that confront the colonialist suppression of First Nations peoples and the ongoing struggle for Indigenous rights to lands, resources, and sovereignty.

Twenty years since his last major Canadian solo show, Unceded Territories will demonstrate the progression of Yuxweluptun’s artistry and ideas through hard-hitting, polemical, but also playful artworks that span his remarkable 30- year career, featuring a selection of brand-new works exhibited publicly for the first time.

Co-curated by Karen Duffek (MOA Curator, Contemporary Visual Arts & Pacific Northwest) and Tania Willard (artist and independent curator, Secwepemc Nation), Unceded Territories promises colour and controversy through this display of over 60 of Yuxweluptun’s most significant paintings, drawings, and works in other media – a critical and impassioned melding of modernism, history, and Indigenous perspectives that records what the artist feels are the major issues facing Indigenous people today.

This exhibition will undoubtedly fuel dialogue, indignation, and even spiritual awareness as it tackles land rights, environmental destruction, and changing ideas about what we can expect of Indigenous art from the Northwest Coast. The issues Yuxweluptun addresses are impossible to ignore.

Yuxweluptun, an artist of Coast Salish and Okanagan descent, graduated from the Emily Carr College of Art and Design in BC. Influential as both artist and activist, Yuxweluptun merges traditional iconography with representations of the environment and the history of colonization, resulting in his powerful, contemporary imagery; his work is replete with masked fish farmers, super-predator oil barons, abstracted ovoids, and unforgettable depictions of a spirit-filled, but now toxic, natural world.

Highly respected locally, Yuxweluptun’s work has also been displayed in numerous international group and solo exhibitions, including the National Gallery of Canada’s special exhibition, Sakahàn: International Indigenous Art. In 1998, Yuxweluptun was the recipient of the Vancouver Institute for the Visual Arts (VIVA) Award. He was also honoured in 2013 with a prestigious Fellowship at the Eitelijorg Musem of American Indians and Western Art in Indianapolis, where his art was featured in an exhibition and book, and was acquired for the museum’s permanent collection.

Yuxwelupton is an incredibly powerful speaker. If ever you’ve been in the room during one of his talks you know that it is impossible not to recognize just how implicated we all are in Canada’s failure to help Indigenous Peoples. I heard his speak at UBC back in the 1990s when I was still a student at the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design University and to this day, remember how shocking it was for me. So, last week as I sat in the gallery at the MOA and listened to Laurence Paul speak I wasn’t shocked – I am aware of the work which still lies ahead of us, and the responsibility we must all bear in helping to atone for the atrocities our country has committed against the Indigenous People’s of this land – what I felt was grief, intense grief and sadness. Truth be told I cried from start to finish as he spoke and as I stood in line along with the others afterwards – to thank him for his powerful images, his voice, and the courage it must take to continue on with it year after year – I was all but speechless when my turn finally came. So I stuck out my hand and simply shook his, with a small and useless ‘thank you’ that should rather have been, I’m so sorry..

 

UBC’s Museum of Anthropology, and the final day of Laurence Paul Yuxwelupton’s painting exhibition there.

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While in Victoria I purchased my copy of Joseph Boyden’s  Wenjack and read it during my flight back to New Brunswick. Please if you haven’t already, read Wenjack, commit Charlie Wenjack’s story to memory so that it may never ever happen here again.

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