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Contemporary Native North American Art Transcends Tradition in Changing Hands 3 at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection

Site-specific Installations, Video, Sculpture, Ceramics, Glass, Metal, Jewellery, and Textiles by Aboriginal Artists from Eastern Regions of North America


March 21, 2013, KLEINBURG ON—Currently on display at the McMichael, the third
and final exhibition in the Museum of Arts and Design’s groundbreaking series
Changing Hands: Art Without Reservation 3, Contemporary Native North American Art
from the Northeast and Southeast
features eighty-three artists from Canada and the
United States, who represent a new generation of indigenous artists utilizing
contemporary techniques, materials, aesthetics, and iconography in their art and design
practice. Changing Hands 3 presents incredible works created in the last seven years by Aboriginal artists in regions east of the Mississippi, including the Great Lakes,
Woodlands, Northeast, Southeast, and up through the Canadian Sub Arctic. On view
through June 2, 2013, the exhibition transcends ethnographic and anthropological
interpretations and challenges preconceived notions and stereotypes of indigenous art
and artists to effect a re-evaluation of contemporary Aboriginal art in an international

Changing Hands 3 features more than 130 works, ranging from site-specific installations and video to sculpture and jewellery—approximately twenty-five of which were designed and created specifically for the exhibition. Following its New York City premiere, the exhibition travelled to museums in the United States, including the Memorial Art Gallery at the University of Rochester in Rochester, NY, and is now on at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection.

The works in the Changing Hands 3 exhibition at the McMichael, organized by guest
curator Ellen Taubman in collaboration with Museum of Arts and Design’s Chief Curator
David McFadden, come from a broad cross-section of indigenous cultures, including
Native Americans from the US, and First Nations, Métis, and Inuit from Canada.
Featured artists are presented without tribal designations, however, and the exhibition is structured around three significant themes that illuminate artistic, intellectual, and
cultural resonances among Aboriginal artists:

•“Evolution and Exploration” examines how Aboriginal artists are reinterpreting
their cultural traditions through contemporary perspectives, and includes the work
of scholar and beadwork artist Joe Baker, whose creative use of colour and
patterning in textiles is based on the complex floral and geometric elements that
once decorated early bandolier bags among the Delaware and Southeastern
people; performance and mixed media artist Barry Ace, who uses computer
components in lieu of the more “traditional” glass trade beads identified with
many Aboriginal groups; Jeremy Frey, whose innovative sculptural baskets
reference early Maine basketry techniques; and Jamie Zane Smith, who has
developed an entirely new language of ceramics through the study of prehistoric
and proto-historic forms among the Wyandot tribe.

• “Natural Selection” features a group of artists whose works respond to and
investigate nature through the lens of contemporary art, including Michael
, whose sculpture of steel and sterling silver moulded around a river
stone reflects the past, when waterways connected each other and the outside
world before transportation and information highways; acclaimed sculptor and
glass artist Robert Tannahill, who creates stylized “masks” that represent the
interplay of natural wood forms and molten glass; and the beadwork of Nadia
, assembled into large, textured tondos in sombre blues, blacks, and greys,
resembling planets or darkened pools.

• “De-Coding History/Historical Provocation” presents works that are often
politically nuanced and contrast the realities of history with the mythology of
cultural assimilation that has marginalized much indigenous art. Among the
featured artists are Robert Houle, whose work addresses the disruption and
dislocation of individuals, families, and often times, entire cultures as well as the
public apology made by the Canadian government for the mistreatment of
indigenous peoples in government residential schools. His installation, Sandy
Bay Residential Schoo
l, which is featured in the exhibition, recounts his
experience at a residential school after being removed from his family at a very
young age; mixed media artist Shan Goshorn, whose featured woven basket is
comprised of a photograph of Native schoolchildren and adults at a typical
boarding school, titled Educational Genocide: The Legacy of the Carlisle Indian
Boarding School
; and performance and installation artist Kent Monkman, who
questions history, colonization, boundaries of identity, gender, and more in a
broad body of work, evidenced in this exhibition with a number of works,
including the film Shooting Geronimo, which highlights the way Hollywood has
caricatured indigenous people in film.

Changing Hands 3 provides audiences with a sensory experience of the complex,
multilayered work of contemporary Aboriginal artists as they confront cultural
expectations, reclaim lost traditions, and create a new identity for themselves shaped by historical, political, and personal circumstances,” says Ellen Taubman, Changing Hands curator. “Through an extraordinary melding of past and present, and direct opposition between stereotype and tradition, the Aboriginal artists featured in the exhibition confront what Aboriginal art has meant and what it means today.”

Changing Hands 3 is accompanied by a 160-page full-colour catalogue with an essay by
guest curator Ellen Taubman and Museum of Arts and Design’s Chief Curator David
McFadden, which provides an overview of the exhibition and explores the impact of the
Changing Hands series on perceptions of Aboriginal art and its lack of representation in
galleries and exhibitions. The catalogue also includes biographies and vision statements
for each of the featured artists, printed alongside images of their works from Changing
Hands 3
and is available both online and at the McMichael Gallery Shop.

The Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) explores the blur zone between art, design, and
craft today. The Museum focuses on contemporary creativity and the ways in which
artists and designers from around the world transform materials through processes
ranging from the artisanal to digital. The Museum’s exhibition program explores and
illuminates issues and ideas, highlights creativity and craftsmanship, and celebrates the
limitless potential of materials and techniques when used by gifted and innovative artists. MAD’s permanent collection is global in scope and focuses on art, craft, and design from 1950 to the present day.

About the McMichael Canadian Art Collection
The McMichael Canadian Art Collection is an agency of the Government of Ontario and
acknowledges the support of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport. It is the
foremost venue in the country showcasing the Group of Seven and their contemporaries. In addition to touring exhibitions, its permanent collection consists of almost 6,000 artworks by Canadian artists, including paintings by the Group of Seven and their contemporaries, as well as First Nations, Métis, and Inuit artists. The gallery is located at 10365 Islington Avenue, Kleinburg, north of Major Mackenzie Drive in the City of Vaughan. For more information:

To obtain a list of works with high-resolution images available, contact:
Michelle Kortinen, Communications Coordinator
McMichael Canadian Art Collection
905.893.1121 ext. 2210

Contemporary Native North American Art Transcends Tradition

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