On tour from Vancouver’s Contemporary Art Gallery, Sugarbush Shrapnel is a solo exhibition that investigates Nishinaabe artist Olivia Whetung’s connections to the ecosystem of her home territory on Chemong Lake, Ontario, with a focus on the transmission of Traditional Knowledge Systems, food sovereignty, and the fragility of symbiotic relationships in an era of accelerating climate change.
What has been lost through climate change? How might we remember ecosystems after we have forever altered them? These questions are considered in Stand, a suite of large-scale works comprised of thin panels of wood veneer, bead-embroidered with wood-burned lines upon their surfaces. In delicate renderings, Whetung traces the fragile relationships between plants, animals and humans. Resembling half-remembered scenes pulled from the fog of memory, the artist’s images offer the barest edges of an ecosystem in the process of irrevocable change.
In a dramatic shift in scale, the beaded pods of Sugarbush Shrapnel encase residual fragments of stone that had exploded from the intense heat of the sap-boiling fire during the Whetung family’s maple syruping process. Resembling tiny tombs or time capsules, the small structures house a valued memory. For Whetung, knowledge is recorded not only in the beaded form, but through the act of beading itself. In this way, beadwork is an index of action, witness and acknowledgement.
The exhibition runs from September 24 to November 18, 2020 in the Main Gallery.