May 20 – October 3, 2021
“Why am I not seeing beaded masks anywhere?” It was a question that Métis artists Nathalie Bertin and Lisa Shepherd both pondered in April 2020. The coronavirus pandemic was affecting people around the world, and they wanted to explore how traditionally crafted masks were being used as a way of expressing this time. Inviting artists to design beaded masks emerging from their experiences as they navigated changing COVID-19 conditions, they launched a Facebook group simply called “Breathe.” to facilitate image sharing. Within two weeks membership had grown to over 1500.
The second touring exhibition emerging from the Breathe. project, this iteration includes 44 masks that speak to both cultural resilience and strength of community in the face of a pandemic. Acknowledging the global impact of the virus, the initiative has encompassed the mask designs of any artist working with traditional beadwork techniques as well as an array of other materials and methods, creating space for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists.
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Image detail: Naomi Smith (Chippewas of Nawash), Oh, Let Me Be Free…, 2021, glass beads, crystals, vintage glass, cotton velveteen, deer hide, cotton sheeting, fabric foundation, metal pieces, beading thread. Collection of the artist.