Dana Claxton Scotiabank Photography Award
Drawing from Indigenous history, contemporary culture, and spirituality, this exhibition celebrates the career of Vancouver-based artist Dana Claxton, winner of the 2020 Scotiabank Photography Award—the largest peer-reviewed photographic art award in Canada. A Hunkpapa Lakota photographer and filmmaker, Claxton examines stereotypes and representations of Indigenous peoples in popular culture.
This exhibition draws from a wide-ranging exploration of the artist’s family and community in the Great Plains, Saskatchewan. Divided into three sections (Land, Cultural Aesthetics, and Body), it confronts the reappropriation and commodification of traditional apparel by mainstream commercial culture, both in North America and Europe, with the presentation of some of Claxton’s personal and family belongings, including her own grandmother’s handmade moccasins. Portraits of empowered members of her community, along with images of lyrical landscapes and skies, challenge viewers to reckon with and engage in conversations regarding the ongoing legacies of colonialism. The accompanying publication presents a coherent overview of Claxton’s work; both the exhibition and the book serve as prestigious acknowledgements of her outstanding contribution to the field. The following text is excerpted from Leila Timmins’ “Introduction” in Scotiabank Photography Award: Dana Claxton (Göttingen: Steidl, 2020):
“I’m known for speaking my mind,” says Dana Claxton with a chuckle in a recent interview, “what’s the point if you can’t speak your mind?” This sense of humour and clearheaded conviction have defined her multi-disciplinary practice for over thirty years. Working between performance, installation, film, video and photography, Claxton has built a body of work that explores art as a site of freedom and self-determination. Throughout her practice, she has been keenly aware of the power of representation. For her, “artworks have considerable potential to shift contemporary consciousness towards support of Aboriginal justice… as well as the potential for spiritual renewal, resolution and contemplation.”
Claxton, who is Hunkpapa Lakota Sioux, was born in Moosejaw, Saskatchewan in 1959 and traces her family roots in the area through her maternal lineage. Her great-great grandmother travelled into Canada with Sitting Bull after fleeing persecution from the US Army and settled in what is now the Wood Mountain reserve. […]
More than a critique of the enduring legacies of colonialism, Dana Claxton’s work explores the pleasure of beautiful objects and how aesthetic value can be held within communities in ways that eschew connoisseurship and consumption. Sioux leader and politician Jodi Archambault Gillette describes how the beauty of Indigenous cultural objects is central to the way knowledge is shared: “The transmission of Lakota cultural memory [is] not only a way of showing love, but of actually loving—a performative act of generosity and respect. A responsibility and a gift-giving that is also a way to survive… imparting a clear message: ‘we have survived, we are here today, well-adorned, in joyous celebration of our heritage as Native Americans.’” In Claxton’s work and in Lakota cultural memory, gift giving, knowledge sharing and aesthetics are folded together to create a way of being that is celebratory and embodied.
Curated by Gaëlle Morel
Organized by the Ryerson Image Centre, presented by Scotiabank, in partnership with CONTACT