In your Footsteps: Indigenous Artists at Concordia

Curated by Amber Berson and Laurie Filgiano

The diverse and interdisciplinary nature of Concordia's Fine Arts program has welcomed and encouraged students to create symbolic, powerful and personal art that is often inspired by prominent contemporary issues. While small in size, the indigenous community of Concordia alumni artists has been highly influential. In conjunction with Izhizkawe, an exhibition of indigenous alumni work, In your Footsteps captures the wide diversity of student work at Concordia, from the undergraduate to the master's level, whose work concerns itself with personal or political indigenous issues.
Through a wide range of media, including print, drawing, photography, film, and painting, we hope to accurately convey the powerful diversity in both practice and theory at Concordia University.

Osvaldo Ramirez

Artist statement:
I have faith in the power of images.
I am a native of El Salvador. The role of storytelling is at the core of El Salvador's collective consciousness and plays an important function in Latin American graphic arts. The historical importance of narrative construction in my work is very much rooted in my cultural tradition.
My early work emerged from drawing and traditional printmaking techniques such as lithography, engraving and relief printing processes - in particular, woodcut. Over the past 10 years I’ve explored the qualities inherent within the graphic medium in order to develop possibilities for my visual narrative. My current work explores personal iconography in allegorical form using the human body as a symbol and as a site of trauma. In addition I’ve performed memory work on El Salvador’s history and through research, I have found a wealth of stories based on experiences of loss and memories of violence that marked El Salvador during the civil war years in the 1980’s - a time which my family and I lived through and emigrated to Canada as a result of it.
I feel historically linked to these experiences and define my work as a critical dialogue that is in a constant process of revision. Using a personal repertoire of iconic images that have evolved on paper over the years my current drawings integrate printmaking techniques and offset printing processes with emphasis on convergence. My mixed media drawings become imagined spaces that depict human events from El Salvador’s cultural memory, as manifested through Latin American myth and history and how these events intersect with my own experiences in relation to family history and of my adopted North American culture. I research El Salvador’s popular folklore and local legends in connection to Pre-Columbian mythology and North American iconography derived from mass culture, as well as public art forms such as graffiti and poster art.
Through the process of drawing critically, my visual narratives invoke acts of remembering and as well, provide a filter for political commentary, for exploring issues of collective memory, globalization and cultural identity - my familial homeland's and my own.

Originally from El Salvador, Osvaldo Castillo's work focuses on mixed media drawings that explore the possibilities of narrative. His work is primarily rooted in traditional printmaking techniques such as woodcut, lithography and offset printing processes in relation to drawing with emphasis on convergence. His work is a continuous revision of El Salvador’s collective memory through personal iconography rooted in Latin American myth, history and North American identity. He completed his bachelor’s degree at the Ontario College of Art and Design where the Latin Canadian Cultural Association was founded and was an active participant for the promotion of Latin American art and culture in the Toronto Arts scene. A current MFA graduate at Concordia University Osvaldo has participated in many group shows throughout Toronto, Montreal, across Canada and internationally. Some important group exhibitions include the 2004 International print and drawing biennial in Taiwan, the 2006 International Print Triennial in Egypt and the 2007 Beyond/In Western New York biennial. Notable venues include La Casa de Las Americas National gallery in Cuba, the International Print Center in New York, Scope Miami and Toronto International art fairs. As well as solo shows at Centre Clark in Montreal for 2008 and Southern Alberta’s Art Gallery for 2009 among others. He lives and works in Montreal.

Walter Scott

Artists Statement:

These printed works are a series in which the central theme is devotion, heartbreak, and adolescent angst, in a time where the search for sincerity is only thinly veiled by irony and the Internet is a converging point for overwrought emotional expression.

Walter Kahero:ton is a Mohawk from the community Kahnawake, studying at Concordia University for a B.F.A in Studio Arts. His interests include comic book art, psychedelic posters, graphic design and typography, as well as making music and screen-printing.

Jobena Petonoquot

Artist Statement:

For my project I had started out wanting to photograph the natural landscape. However as I was photographing my surroundings I became increasingly aware that my interests were situated within the context of distorting the landscape to reveal my own account of how I felt about the scenery of my world. I had taken what I had seen and literally stripped it of any indication of its location. I had captivated what can’t be seen, but, perhaps a momentary glance of the unseen.


My name is Jobena Synese Marie Petonoquot I was born in the town of Maniwaki, August. 3, 1980, but raised on my reservation Kitigan Zibi which means "garden river" in the Algonquin language. I graduated from high school 1999, and then attended Cegep Vanier College 2002-2005. Where I studied Communications (Media, Art Theatre) where I discovered my chosen art medium photography. Presently I am a Fine Arts student at Concordia University majoring in Art History with a Minor in Photography.
As a First Nations artist, photography is in every sense an art form that is in keeping with our philosophy of art, which is to communicate the ever changing world around us. It matters not the medium that is used, just as long as we use it to visually communicate the everyday to the extraordinary.

Mark Igloliorte

Artist Statement:

My work as a painter places forward concerns of depiction; how perceptions are recreated upon or within surfaces. A current painting series of historic kayak images work within this context registering some of the shifts in the depiction and materiality of these images.
While browsing online, I found historic kayak images from Labrador online on a sporting website. Some of the photographs in the kayaking website predate plastic or even paper negatives. Meaning that they were wet plate, or more likely, dry plate glass negatives. Many of these photographs would have also been transferred by missionaries to glass lantern slides for public presentations in Europe. In viewing the kayak photographs through a flat plastic screen I found a similarity in surfaces of glass plate and computer monitor.
In this series the painting support of Plexiglas is a physical element which can echo the photograph and computer screen as a vessel for imagery. Throughout the series there is an optimism that the semblance captured a century ago can be re-contextualized and offer a site of contemplation that is neither wholly an object of reverence or of lamentation.

Mark Igloliorte is an Inuk artist attending the Master's of Fine Art, Studio Art Painting and Drawing at Concordia University. His work encompasses performance, sculpture, painting, drawing and new media. In 2006 he received a project grant from the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council to attend the aboriginal visual arts residency ‘Storytelling’ at the Banff Centre. He has exhibited in group and solo shows in four provinces and has contributed to the artist book “The Book Of…”, which has been collected by the National Gallery of Canada. He holds both a Bachelor of Education (Intermediate/Secondary) from Memorial University of Newfoundland and a Bachelor of Fine Art, Major in Fine Art from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.

John Brent Bennett

Artist’s statement:
My art practice is deeply rooted in my Haida culture. I am a Haida artist from Massett on Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands). Haida art is derived from nature and represents beings both supernatural and natural. Straight lines do not exist. Haida design is made by the combination of shapes that occur in nature. These shapes include but are not limited to Ovoid's, S shapes, U’s and split U shapes. Their combinations make up what is known as form line. Each different combination represents the flow of the form line. Flow is important. Flow describes the strength of the over all design; the more freely the design flows: the stronger the design and its content.
The flow of a design depends on the experience of the artist. The Ovoid and U shapes may be combined to create a bird wing, bird tail, and/or feathers. The Ovoid can be used to represent an eye socket for human and animal figures. The Ovoid may also represent arms or shoulder joints. The U shapes represents fins on aquatic figures, feathers on flying figures, and arms on humans figures.
Throughout time, the Haida people have embraced technological advances such as metal tools, chain saws, printing presses and now computers. Traditional Haida culture has expanded into the contemporary realm. Technology has contributed a significant influence in the exploration of traditional Haida art and has contributed to the evolution and technique of Haida art.
Until recently, technology has not had a significant impact on the meaning of Haida art. The latest technological advancement to significantly influence the meaning of Haida art has been the computer. It has been only in the last few years that computers have played a significant role in my own art practice.
My introduction to the offset litho press encouraged me to use digital imaging for creating prints. In using my own photographs of my surroundings and of my sculptures, I am able to offer a new dimension to my work. As a result of computer technology, my artwork has become more of an expression of myself than an expression of something that was created hundreds of years ago. In the contemporary context I have reclaimed my traditional Haida art form in my recent prints and am exploring a personal narrative.
I have reached a point in my artistic ability similar to the level that my ancestors achieved whose artwork was on the cutting edge of their time. In respect to design, I readily admit I have much more to learn about the traditional art practices of the Haida. Although my foundation for creating traditional work is knowledgeable, it is not complete, and I will continue exploring my culture and incorporating it into my work. I believe that without first understanding my origins, I cannot find a contemporary voice in my art. Technology is not the only aspect challenging the meaning of my work; I have added a new dimension to the traditional design by manipulating the form line,
I am exploring through my most recent prints experimental manipulations of form line, and how far it can be disrupted and segmented before the design breaks down completely. I break the form line by segmenting the design and reversing the positive and negative space in each segment. I am discovering that the segmentation does not have to be in a straight line, and that the segmenting lines can take any shape as long as the line reaches from one side to the other side of the design. Haida designs may be manipulated in this way because the designs already exist as positive and negative spaces that allow the design to retain all the aspects of traditional art. I will admit that the designs take a little longer to conceptualize because I trust the eye and brain will follow the form line through the transitions of positive and negative; this transition results in explorations of optical illusions.
The reversing of positive and negative space opens the composition so a photographic image may be layered over the original design. The reason for printing the photograph over top of the hand-cut stencil print is to create layers of image that blend sculpture and print. Layering a photograph over a hand-cut stencil image creates another level - a shadow image that exists on another dimension within the image of the print.
I hope to explore a new series of prints utilizing digital photographs and hand-cut-stencil designs. The photos will be scanned and reworked on a computer. I think of the series as having the title “Irony". For me this alludes to the inevitable evolution that is emerging within Haida art and my contribution to this evolution. Also how, though contemporary technology, my Haida imagery, created by hand as is the tradition, finds new potential through also introducing the digital realm. I believe that there is a possibility of new narratives; explorations of new combinations of form and content and through a combination of tradition and contemporary practices, I seek to explore them.
Shannon Letandre
Artist Statement:
A young Aboriginal woman that is not fluent in her language searches for reasons why Aboriginal languages in Canada are disappearing at an alarming rate.

Shannon Letandre is an Ojibwe/Cree woman from Dauphin River First Nation in Manitoba. She was raised by her maternal grandparents in their community until the age of 13 when she left her tiny reserve to continue on with school. In 2001, she graduated from the University of Winnipeg with a degree in Political Science. After having worked on several community projects over the years, she returned to school in 2006 to pursue a BFA in Film Production at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema at Concordia University in Montreal. She will complete her degree in 2009.
With her commitment to story-telling and preserving traditional cultural knowledge, she has taken various steps to ensure that any contributions that she makes can be done well and in a meaningful way.
" I am here today because of the resilience and perseverance of strong people. I feel that it is so important for us to tell our stories. I believe that expressing ourselves through all forms of art (film included) is a way of healing -- it's good for the soul. I feel honoured to be involved in helping to make our voices heard."

François Lalumière

Démarche artistique:

É tudiant en première année en Studio Arts à l’Université Concordia, je travaille entre autres de multiples façons avec le Duct Tape. Appropriation d’un matériau commercial, je l’applique tel quel, je le détourne, le froisse, le tisse, le mixe, le cisaille sur des supports rigides ou souples. Les rouleaux de Duct Tape sont pour moi à la fois mes tubes de couleur de peinture et mes pinceaux. Il en résulte des pièces 2D, sculptures et installations.
Objectif : repousser les limites de ce matériau ready-made dans des recherches visuelles en à-plat, en relief ou en 3D. Les applications expérimentales sont infinies : j’ai réalisé depuis un an des tableaux, sculptures et installations.
Mon intérêt et mes influences me mènent à explorer et convier à ma manière l’histoire de l’abstraction géométrique, l’art conceptuel, l’Automatisme, les Plasticiens mais aussi le thème de l’ornementation (Shaped Canvas, compositions quasi monochromatiques, la ligne et le trait mais aussi le All over). Je revisite également l’idée de monument et l’art public par des sculptures qui en appellent à la forme de l’obélisque, la flèche/la pointe, la colonne, le totem (utilisation du bois, récupération/recyclage et insertion de journaux en rouleaux).
Les motifs appliqués sont parfois des interprétations libres de l’art primitif et tribal, l’art amérindien, graffiti et Tags mixés aux compositions influencées par l’art moderne et contemporain.
Mes préoccupations sont celles de l’écologie, de l’écosystème, de l’homme face à l’univers, de projections futuriste.

Né en 1983 à Granby, François Lalumière étudie en Beaux-arts au Collège Dawson avant de rejoindre en 2007 le département Studio Arts de l’Université Concordia. Il a présenté récemment son travail à FOFA (Faculty of Fine Arts Gallery) dans l’exposition annuelle des étudiants de 1er cycle. C’est à cette occasion qu’il rend public ses premiers travaux réalisés à partir de son nouveau matériau fétiche : le Duct Tape.
Intéressé par la création contemporaine dans son spectre le plus large, il a œuvré auparavant dans le milieu de la mode et a cofondé sa propre ligne de bijoux, SINCE et été styliste déco pour l’hebdomadaire VOIR. C’est comme artiste transdisciplinaire qu’il entend développer sa pratique.
Born in 1983 in Granby, François Lalumière studied Fine Arts (Dawson College) before beginning a degree in Studio Arts in 2007 at Concordia University. He exhibited the installation called ‘My Expanded World’ at FOFA Gallery recently during the Annual Undergraduate Show. He presented his new works with Duct Tape as a fetishist material in this context.
Interested in contemporary creation at large, he first worked in the Fashion Industry and co founded SINCE, his own jewellery brand. He also was deco stylist for weekly Montreal newspaper VOIR. He intends to continue to develop his practice as a transdisciplinary artist.

Bea Parsons

Artist Statement:

" Indian Acting in Cyberspace" is a series of small self portraits taken in Second Life, an online virtual world. As a person of aboriginal decent, I used have used this environment to explore and critique concepts related to concerns related to territory, culture, and feminism in regards to my experience as a Cree/Canadian woman. Participating in this 3D virtual world has allowed me to claim a visual presence in the digital world.
I have been known to change my appearance in the virtual world. In the past I have appeared as a floating headdress and often adjust the shades of my skin to fit in with or defy expectations of what an aboriginal person should look like.

Bea Parsons is a currently completing her BFA in Art Education at Concordia University in Montreal. Bea's studio practice is based in painting and drawing, but has recently begun to branch out to include performance, new media, video and installation. Bea draws from her experience as a person of Aboriginal and European descent to explore themes related to identity, cultural consumption, and feminism. Her installation and performance work have been exhibited at The Darling Foundry, Art Mur, and the VAV Gallery in Montreal. She recently presented at LIVE Performance Art Biennale, Vancouver. Bea is currently a Research Assistant for AbTeC: Aboriginal Territories and is becoming familiar with using Second Life as a means for art making and performance.