A groundbreaking collection of Indigenous beadwork opens at MacKenzie Art

A groundbreaking collection of contemporary beadwork, the curators of the exhibition want to dispel the notion that beadwork is a “relic of history”.

content of the article

As Cathy Mattes oversaw the unpacking of pieces for a new exhibition of Indigenous beadwork in Regina, she said it took her breath away.

advertising 2

content of the article

“Some of it just lets me breathe easy as an Indigenous bead embroiderer, feel more grounded, just a range of emotions and excitement,” Mattes said.

Guest curators Sherry Farrell Racette, Michelle LaVallee and Mattes are pleased to present their exhibition Radical Stitch, a curated collection of contemporary Indigenous beadwork from across Turtle Island and North America.

The exhibition, which opened to the public at MacKenzie Art Gallery from Saturday, features around 100 beadwork works by 48 Indigenous artists. Seven call Saskatchewan their home, including Catherine Blackburn, Dana Claxton and Reginas Audie Murray.

It is one of the first times such a large contemporary collection of Indigenous beadwork has been exhibited and all three curators are excited to finally see the groundbreaking exhibition in the spotlight.

A piece by Regina artist Audie Murray in part of a collection entitled Radical Stitch, a landmark exhibition of contemporary Indigenous beadwork on view at MacKenzie Art Gallery until August 28.
A piece by Regina artist Audie Murray in part of a collection entitled Radical Stitch, a landmark exhibition of contemporary Indigenous beadwork on view at MacKenzie Art Gallery until August 28. Photo by KAYLE NEIS /Regina Leader post

Rapid Stitch includes works depicting a range of different regional beading practices, including pieces of traditional regalia and inspired by them.

LaVallee emphasized that while the collection features a geographic breadth of artists, it is not intended as an overview of regional beading practices.

“It’s representative,” said Farrell Racette. “And we feel very comfortable with it.”

“It’s not all-inclusive, but hopefully it gives viewers, especially those new to beadwork, a good insight into the variety of practices that are currently taking place,” added LaVallee.

Rather, the collection is a deep dive into the intricacies of beadwork as an art, with a focus on the medium’s impact and role in political, creative, and cultural storytelling.

advertising 3

content of the article

“I don’t think some people are aware of the technical skill that goes into making these pieces,” LaVallee said.

“We’ve really thought about and honored bead artists, inspired them, but it’s also about totally tossing the last remnant of ‘beadwork as a craft or a lesser medium’ to the curb,” said Farrell Racette.

A piece by Jon Micheal Corbett of Radical Stitch.
A piece by Jon Micheal Corbett of Radical Stitch. Photo by KAYLE NEIS /Regina Leader post

Previous exhibitions have examined beadwork through a historical lens, but the trio of curators hope to expand that narrative and view beadwork as a unifying, evolving link between tradition and modernity.

Beadwork is deeply tied to indigenous culture, tradition and history, the curators said, and for some artists it offers a reconnection to their ancestors in the face of colonization.

“We’re by no means the only culture that practices beadwork, but it’s become somewhat synonymous with Indigenous people,” LaVallee said. “The focus is really on the contemporary artists and how they use the medium to expand and address issues.”

As a collection, Radical Stitch aims to honor both the tradition of beadwork and the innovation and beauty of modern works and their place in the ongoing cultural narrative.

“For us, there is no gap between traditional and contemporary art,” Mattes said. “The artists in this exhibition continue the way their ancestors did (and) speak to their time contributing to the culture.”

Farrell Racette, LaVallee and Mattes have been assembling the collection for several years, traveling across North America connecting with artists and hunting down “showstopper” pieces, as Farrell Racette described them.

advertising 4

content of the article

A piece by Barry Ace included in Radical Stitch, showing the collection's nod to traditional regalia alongside more modern beadwork.
A piece by Barry Ace included in Radical Stitch, showing the collection’s nod to traditional regalia alongside more modern beadwork. Photo by KAYLE NEIS /Regina Leader post

There was a long list of artists on their radar, but much of the final selection depended on availability. Most of the pieces on display are on loan from private collections, with the exception of three artworks that have been exclusively commissioned. Few came from places like museum collections.

“Public institutions don’t collect beadwork,” Farrell Racette said of the hunt. “It was pretty sobering.”

In its inception, Rapid Stitch was intended as an exhibition for bead embroiderers, Mattes said — an exchange of craftsmanship that appeals to both artists within the medium interested in technique and the general public eager to admire them.

With the collection now on display, all three curators are interested in seeing how the exhibition impacts the local artist community.

lkurz@postmedia.com

The news seems to be coming at us faster and faster. From COVID-19 updates to politics and crime and everything in between, it can be difficult to keep up. With that in mind, the Regina Leader post created a Afternoon headlines Newsletter that can be delivered to your inbox daily to ensure you are up to date with the day’s most important news. Click here to login.

LtoR) Cathy Mattes, Sherry Farrell Racette and Michelle LaVallee pose for a portrait in front of the entrance to a collection of installations entitled Radical Stitch, a seminal exhibition of contemporary Indigenous beadwork.
LtoR) Cathy Mattes, Sherry Farrell Racette and Michelle LaVallee pose for a portrait in front of the entrance to a collection of installations entitled Radical Stitch, a seminal exhibition of contemporary Indigenous beadwork. Photo by KAYLE NEIS /Regina Leader post
A piece by Maria Hupfield in Radical Stitch featuring 48 artists and around 100 works from across Turtle Island.
A piece by Maria Hupfield in Radical Stitch featuring 48 artists and around 100 works from across Turtle Island. Photo by KAYLE NEIS /Regina Leader post
A piece by Nico Williams that is part of the installation entitled Radical Stitch.  The case is pictured at the MacKenzie Art Gallery, which is now open to the public.
A piece by Nico Williams that is part of the installation entitled Radical Stitch. The case is pictured at the MacKenzie Art Gallery, which is now open to the public. Photo by KAYLE NEIS /Regina Leader post

Display 1

Remarks

Postmedia strives to maintain a vibrant but civilized forum for discussion and encourages all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour to be moderated before they appear on the site. We ask that you keep your comments relevant and respectful. We’ve turned on email notifications – you’ll now receive an email when you get a reply to your comment, there’s an update on a comment thread you follow, or when a user you follow comments follows. For more information and details on how to customize your email settings, see our Community Guidelines.

Leave a Comment