with these hands, from this land presents a new body of work from multidisciplinary artist Catherine Blackburn. This exhibition continues Blackburn’s ongoing investigations into female Indigenous identity through her familial histories and personal experiences. Her practice seamlessly moves between mediums, including sculptural installation, photography and video, while incorporating elements of traditional Indigenous art forms, coalescing to create new interpretations that respond to contemporary life.
Focusing on the adornment of Indigenous bodies, the artworks in this exhibition are considered acts of reclamation as Blackburn expresses the refusal to be classified or minimized by the oppressive history of colonization. The act of beading, as seen in But there’s no scar II and Trapline II, provides her with the capacity to speak her mother- tongue of Dene, even when she does not know the words, her hands allow her to connect to language and land.
By contemporizing Dene traditions that are inspired by her grandmother, Blackburn disrupts the colonial gaze that has reigned over functional Indigenous objects, therefore releasing these objects from athropologized, museological glass cases. As found in the series Setsuné’s tools. Blackburn asserts, “Through our hands, by way of beading, gathering, tattooing, piercing, trapping, fishing, tool making, sewing, skinning, scraping, tanning, I honour the ways in which Dene life has always relied on our bodies. This relationship to body and object, functioning together in this tactile manner, speaks to a land-based act of love.”
Blackburn’s sense of urgency with this body of work is palpable, as she points to the future by celebrating the history of strength, resilience and beauty found in Indigenous sovereignty.