20 Collections of Colonization

Riley Cuddy-Colbon

Riley Cuddy-Colbon, “Collections of Colonization”. October 15, 2021. Acrylic and gauche paint.


The piece that I created in response to the lesson on Craft and Collecting: Three Case Studies is meant to speak on the misrepresentation and unethical collection of Indigenous art and artifacts in Canadian museums and galleries. Despite recent efforts towards reform within museums and the integration of Indigenous contemporary art into art galleries (NGC, 2021) alongside their European artist counterparts, there is still further conversation to be had about the way that Canada displays and interprets our history, or lack thereof, in museums and other educational platforms, especially schools.

The painting I created is a symbolic representation of what our museums would look like if we were to display the realities of our history of violence and mistreatment of Indigenous people in art galleries, the way that we display paintings of our prized Canadian landscapes, of the land stolen from Indigenous people that have been displayed for decades. The torn, blank canvases represent the parts of Canadian history that colonizers worked to erase from our history and the missing holes in our history textbooks regarding the horrible treatment of Indigenous communities throughout our entire history. The gold frames and tables scattered throughout the dark hallway and the weapons in the cases are meant to refer to how, in imagery especially, history is often literally painted to be more morally and physically appealing. This is also in regard to the intentional exclusion of aspects of Canadian history. Furthermore, the empty canvases and empty table also represent the exclusion and segregation of Indigenous contemporary art in Canadian art galleries such as the NGC and the misplacement of such pieces of art in anthropology museums. Lee-Ann Martin (2017) noted the heavily prevalent exclusion and lack of contemporary art by Indigenous artists in Canadian art galleries throughout a study of Native art in 29 Canadian art galleries and exhibitions. Amy Lonetree (2012) lists several important questions to consider when discussing the decolonization of museums, including how museums can and should represent the difficult realities of our violent colonial history in our museums as reform is crucial and requires education to be continuous.

Finally, my intentions of this piece are to bring to light the future changes that need to be brought forth not only in art galleries and museums but in a more widespread manner as well, especially including education and school curriculums, regarding the truth about Canada’s history and more importantly, justice for Indigenous art, culture, and history.


References

National Gallery of Canada. (n.d.). Indigenous and Canadian art | National Gallery of Canada. National Gallery of Canada. Retrieved October 19, 2021, from https://www.gallery.ca/whats-on/exhibitions-and-galleries/indigenous-and-canadian-art.
Martin, Lee-Ann. “Anger and Reconciliation: A Very Brief History of Exhibiting Contemporary Indigenous Art in Canada.” Afterall 43, no. 1 (2017): 108–115.
Lonetree, A. (2012). Decolonizing museums : representing native America in national and tribal museums . University of North Carolina Press.

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Art in Revolution: Nineteenth-Century Visual Culture by Riley Cuddy-Colbon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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