Uprising: The Power of Mother Earth
Christi Belcourt – A Retrospective with Isaac Murdoch
July 7 – October 15, 2020
Uprising is a mid-career retrospective of the work of Michif (Métis) visual artist Christi Belcourt. It brings together over 30 paintings, calling attention to her creative achievements over 25 years of art-making. The exhibit is complemented by the work of knowledge holder, storyteller, and artist Isaac Murdoch, whose iconic images, such as Thunderbird Woman, have become symbolic of the Indigenous resistance movement against resource extraction.
Celebrating Belcourt’s profound respect for the natural environment, the exhibition charts Belcourt’s practice from the early to late 1990s and her explorations of land, water, and medicinal plants traditionally used by the Métis people. In the early 2000s, she began referencing Indigenous and Métis beadwork in large-scale paintings using floral motifs. In works such as Four (2004) and The Conversation (2002), Belcourt simulates the technique of beading by dipping the end of a paintbrush or knitting needle into paint and dotting the canvas, one “bead” at a time. The black background of these works references the black velvet onto which 19th century Métis artists sewed appliqué to emphasize the beaded flowers’ vivid colours. Belcourt’s paintings entice viewers to contemplate the diversity, complexity, and beauty of plants, as well as their own relationship to Mother Earth.
Belcourt’s practice expanded to include collaborations with Murdoch. In November 2014, along with artist Erin Konsmo, they formed the Onaman Collective. The Collective organizes community art builds, working alongside community members to screen-print and paint banners, tell stories, learn languages, and share food. The banners not only demonstrate the artists’ use of art to empower water and land protection action, they show how art can be accessible at grassroots and international levels. Belcourt and Murdoch’s work is a testament to the power of evocative art and its ability to motivate people to rise up and take action.
Curated by Nadia Kurd, this national touring exhibition is co-produced by Thunder Bay Art Gallery and Carleton University Art Gallery and presented by the Art Gallery of Guelph with the support of Canadian Heritage.
Image detail: Christi Belcourt, This Painting is a Mirror, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 206 x 256 cm. Collection of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (Photographer: Lawrence Cook)