Felicia Gay, Joi Arcand, Chrystal Kruszelnicki
Give Her a Face
October 27 to December 2 2006
This exhibition was dedicated to Calinda Waterhen, 22 years; Shelly Napope, 16 years; Eva Taysup, 25 years; Mary Jane Serloin, 35 years; Janet Christine Sylvestre, 37 years; and Shirley Lonethunder, 26 years.
Give Her a Face was based on the lives and deaths of these Aboriginal women, who were killed in Saskatoon and whose cases were met with public apathy. Through the camera's lens, the trio of artists put a human face to the women who died in those tragic moments. Making up the exhibition were Joi Arcand's By a Thread (2005), Chrystal Kruszelnicki's Submerged (2004), and Moon Lake Series, a collaboration by Felicia Gay and Joi Arcand.
"The title, Give Her a Face, encompasses each artist's individual piece as well as encompassing the thematic of the overall exhibition. All three artists involved are women of Métis and First Nation descent, each relating to their identity as First Nations people differently. Having said that, it was agreed that the main issue that needed interrogating was the relationship between identity and perception in terms of community, and Aboriginal women versus their place in the realm of media.
All three of us are contemporary First Nations women. We felt it was important to expose issues that involve ourselves as just that. What are the issues? Who are these Native women? Certainly they are not on the minds and hearts of the majority within our mainstream communities. Where are we? How do we expose ourselves, whether it is our contemporary identities exposed, or our tragedies? This was our chance not only to interrogate these issues but also to intervene and show our personal perception of who we are as First Nations women."
Give Her a Face was a response to how the Canadian public and specifically the Saskatoon public did not respond to the deaths of Calinda Waterhen, Shelly Napope, Eva Taysup, Mary Serloin, Janet Sylvestre and Shirley Lonethunder.
Native women are troubled by the public apathy towards issues of violence against Native women. We felt that by addressing a specific incident that occurred at a specific point in Saskatoon's history, we might, as we say, give the victim a face and in turn a voice. It was difficult to fathom that a serial killer in our midst would not raise public alarm or at its worst notoriety for the murderer, John Crawford. The murders raised little media attention and even less public outcry.
I believe it is only through our collective silence that issues such as these go unnoticed and unchallenged.
During the course of the Crawford trial, women and elders wore blankets to signify solidarity as a people in the face of indifference. Just as some of the victims were wrapped in blankets and laid in the brush where they died, the elders and women reclaimed that as a symbol of healing and togetherness.
As First Nation women and artists, we decided to empower the victim by giving her a face."
Felicia Gay is a Swampy Cree/Scot from Cumberland House Cree Nation belonging to the Opaskwayak Cree Nation. Gay completed a Bachelor of Arts Honors Degree in Art History from the University of Saskatchewan (2004). She is currently enrolled in the University of Saskatchewan's Graduate Program to complete a Special Case Masters in Art History.
Joi Arcand is a photographer and printmaker from Muskeg Lake Cree Nation in Saskatchewan. Currently enrolled in the Bachelor of Fine Arts program at the University of Saskatchewan, she will be graduating in the fall.
Chrystal Kruszelnicki is a Saskatchewan-based artist working in photography. She graduated from the University of Saskachewan and produced the exhibition Submerged at the Gordon Snelgrove Gallery in Saskatoon.