Don’t let the relative silence of the gallery fool you – Kelly Greene’s latest exhibition is as loud a statement as she can make. “Our language, culture and traditions are still alive. We are still alive!”
This week, Greene, BFA’94, opens Accountability at the McIntosh Gallery. In it, the multi-media artist, who works in painting, sculpture, installation, and photography, looks to bring underrepresented experiences into the mainstream.
A Mohawk member of the Six Nations of the Grand River in Ohsweken, Ont., Greene amplifies stories of those who have been historically marginalized and underrepresented. She focuses on environmental concerns, as well as the impact colonization has had on First Peoples.
For the last quarter century, her work has asked viewers to consider not only the need for stewardship towards the land, but also the multiple ways in which the notion of accountability occurs across key issues affecting Indigenous People, explained Helen Gregory, Curator of the McIntosh.
Accountability offers alternative viewpoints of historic occurrences once viewed as celebratory by the dominant society, wondering when history books will be changed. For example, she reflects on Canada’s 150 anniversary in 2017 and the Hudson’s Bay Company’s 325 anniversary in 1995 from a different perspective, in works such as Ode to Canada: Political Pinata with lots of Red Tape and From Strips, Divisions, Yet They Proudly Celebrated.
“The materials that make up these works reveal layers of misinformation that has been prevalent for centuries,” Greene said. “Now, spectators may consider what was actually taken from the First People and what they suffered in this era of truth while we wait for officials to fully become accountable.”
Another sculptural installation, Deception, Reality, & Regeneration, explores the land granted Treaty to the Six Nations people, an agreement never honoured fully. The work also highlights the “accountability of the Mohawk Nation, one, amongst hundreds of diverse First Nations, who are still working hard to regain and maintain all that was attempted to be taken away again by the government and church,” Greene said.
But the exhibition is not without elements of hope, she explained, noting a fancy shawl made from a Kanata flag with Mohawk words painted on top that translate in English as “Our language, culture and traditions are still alive. We are still alive!”
After graduating from Western, Greene created art and exhibited in Canada, mostly in Ontario, especially in Brantford at the Woodland Cultural Centre. Returning to Western, however, is special.
As curator for Greene’ exhibition, Gregory hoped “to provide historical context for her work. Given that Western has such a diverse student population, it’s not reasonable to assume that everybody will have in-depth knowledge of the issues that Kelly is addressing. I’m hopeful that by providing that content, visitors will come away with deeper understanding of her work and of those specific issues and histories.”
As she works towards a deeper understanding of her own Haudenosaunee culture, Greene hopes the exhibition experience will make people think about what the truth really was in the creation of this country.
Earth as Human Nurturing Fate, is a work that speaks deeply about the collective ability of Indigenous cultures to survive, and thrive.
“As a nation with its roots in colonization by European settlers, Canada must remain accountable to the history of injustices by honouring past treaties and recognizing the importance of restitution in the healing process. Indigenous People must remain accountable to themselves by taking on the responsibility for keeping their languages and traditions alive and, by passing them on to younger generations, mitigating further loss of vital knowledge and culture. And we must all take on the responsibility of caring for our Earth that sustains us.”
Accountability runs March 6-April. An opening reception will be held at 7 p.m. March 6.