Pipelines and Prophecies

Adrian Stimson

September 7 - October 6, 2018

Pipelines and Prophecies
Pipelines and Prophecies
Pipelines and Prophecies
Pipelines and Prophecies
Pipeline Bison
Prophecy Train

Pipelines and Prophecies

Pipelines and Prophecies , 2018
installation view

Adrian Stimson will be in conversation with Adrienne Huard (bio below), a Canadian Art editorial resident, on Saturday September 15 at 4pm in conjunction with Canadian Art's gallery tour. A reception from 5-7pm follows.

The fate of the Buffalo has vast implications for native ecosystems as well as Native peoples. Buffalo determine landscapes. For thousands of years, the Great Plains,
the largest single ecosystem in North America, was maintained by the buffalo. By their sheer numbers, weight, and behavior, they cultivated the prairies. It is said that their thundering hooves danced on the earth as they moved by their millions; their steps resounded in the vast underground water system, the Ogallala Aquifer, stimulating its health and seeding the prairies. And their destruction set in motion the ecological and economic crisis that now afflicts the region. [...]. No other biome on the continent has suffered so much loss.

Winona La Duke, 2002

"In my practice, I repeatedly focus on the figure of the buffalo as a metaphor for spirituality, resistance, and creativity. In 2003, while living next to a bison range in northern Saskatchewan, I started painting bison. My first series of paintings were called Buffalo Manifesto, a series of 40 small tar paintings on wood. Since then, I have used the metaphor of the buffalo in my paintings, installations, and performance events, all of which demand accountability for an array of colonial crimes.

"As a member of the Blackfoot people and Plains First Nations, I have a direct relation to the bison. They were and are everything—a source of food, shelter and spirituality. When they were slaughtered and disappeared from the plains it threw my people into despair and interrupted our natural flow. For me, the fate of the bison is analogous to the experience of my people. When I look at the slaughter of the bison, I see how it affected my people and our way of life. The assault on the bison goes hand in hand with the assault on the land; it is the ongoing colonial practice of resource extraction, the pillaging of resources for material gain and wealth accumulation.

"These etchings continue my exploration in juxtaposing the bison on the landscape with symbols of resource extraction; pipelines, oil jacks, agricultural implements, grain elevators, potash/coal/uranium mines etc. They are about the short memory of invader societies and their practices of deliberate forgetting and cognitive dissonance. We have not yet come to any public reconciliation. In fact, we are entering a new time, a time where our voices are becoming louder, and protests, confrontations and legal challenges are forcing settlers to confront their own histories of violence. The Indigenous peoples of the Plains and the buffalo have endured our own genocide; we have faced our extinction and have survived. These plates are intended to capture moments - “events” - to reflect upon the choices we have to make in order for our collective survival. The destruction we have faced is the same as the past. The colonial project, a way of thinking that we have dominion over others and the earth, if continued, will face our collective extinction.

"In a recent conversation with one of my Blackfoot spiritual elders, he told me the story of four seers (those who can predict the future) from our past. He told me that these seers predicted the arrival of the white man; specifically the trains, the automobile, the airplane and finally the fragile tree, where our contemporary leadership sits upon today. The branches break and they fall, the reason being it is not our way, not our governance structure, and therefore are destined to fail. It indicates that we need to follow our ways and create a governance system that reflects and works for us.

"I have juxtaposed a charging bison with each of the prophecies - train, car, plane and fragile tree - meaning that as indigenous peoples, we have, do and will continue to meet the challenges of colonization head on. We are resilient and by remembering the visions and stories of our ancestors, we are a continuum of that practice of seeing. It transcends time. It creates a space where we can envision a way of being that is in balance all the time."

- Adrian Stimson

Adrian Stimson was the first international indigenous artist to take part in an Indigenous Print workshop 2017/2018 at Cicada Press, University of New South Wales, Sydney Australia, producing three suites of etchings, including Buffalo Bones and Pipelines and Prophecy. Paul Petro Contemporary Art is pleased to present the results of this workshop in Stimson's inaugural exhibition with our gallery.

Adrian Stimson was born in 1964 in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. He is a member of the Siksika Nation (Blackfoot Reserve, Alberta), and was raised there. He served as tribal councillor for eight years in the 1990s, leaving to pursue art in 1999. Stimson studied at the Alberta College of Art and Design in Calgary, Alberta, receiving his Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2003. He has since completed a Master of Fine Arts at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.

Stimson ins an interdisciplinary artist who works in a variety of media to incorporate themes of history, gender, and identity. His Buffalo Boy performances use satire to critique stereotypes about Aboriginal people, his installation Old Sun explores the legacy of the residential school system, while his Transformation exhibit of paintings examines the subject of missing Aboriginal women. His work has been exhibited throughout Canada, and he is particularly known for his tar and feather series.

Bison often appear in Stimson's work: “I use the bison as a symbol representing the destruction of the Aboriginal way of life, but it also represents survival and cultural regeneration. The bison is central to Blackfoot being. And the bison as both icon and food source, as well as the whole history of its disappearance, is very much a part of my contemporary life” (Canadian Art Magazine, 2007).

Stimson has received honours and awards including the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal (2003), the Alberta Centennial Medal (2005), and the Blackfoot Visual Arts Award (2009). In 2006, Stimson served as artist-in-residence at the Mendel Art Gallery (Saskatoon). In 2008, Stimson was featured in an episode of the documentary series Landscape As Muse. In 2010, he was selected to travel to Afghanistan as part of the Canadian Forces Artists program.

In 2018 Stimson became a recipient of the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts.

Adrienne Huard is a Two-Spirit Anishinaabekwe currently based out of Tiohtià:ke. Her nation is Couchiching First Nations, Fort Frances, ON, and she is of Turtle clan. She recently completed her BA in art history at Concordia University and will enter the Master's program at OCAD (Toronto) in September of 2018. She is Canadian Art's editorial resident for the summer of 2018.

REVIEW: Canadian Art, Winter 2019, pp. 135-136

by Lauren Fournier

Growing up as a settler kid in Treaty 4/Regina, I learned about the bison at a young age. The rst mention was in elementary school, when my teacher showed us images of bison diagrammed with arrows, to describe all their uses by First Nations Peoples. These lessons were told with the intent to amaze (or disgust): the fat becomes soap, the stomach a bowl. But what larger impressions were being instilled? How thorough, thoughtful or different were First Nations People from a proverbial us— children living on the land as settlers, colonizers, some unknowingly Indigenous themselves? Stories of the bison and their First Nations stewards were told as history. These were lessons in extinction.

Stimson’s “Pipelines and Prophecies” assembled three new series of hand-etchings on zinc plates and archival paper made during a recent residency at the University of New South Wales in Australia. While the works were made far from home, they speak to the essential visuality of Saskatchewan. The sparseness of the prairie landscape, packed down with history, comes through in pieces like Pumpjack Bison (2017) while works like Prophecy Plane (2017) represent the foresight of ancestral knowledge. Stimson etches visions of the prairies—what you might see while driving, or dreaming—that reintegrate the bison onto the land. He positions bison against oil jacks and pipelines, symbols of modern-day resource industry, as quite different approaches to sustaining culture through energy.

In the centre of the gallery was the mixed-media sculpture Buffalo Bull Boat (2018), a boat made of bison rawhide and maple saplings for a passenger of one. Stimson has worked with the bison in his performances as Buffalo Boy (2006–) and in installations such as Beyond Redemption (2010), where hides draped over crosses congregate around a taxidermy bison—a sombre, spatial re ection on residential schools. Here, the physical bison hide returned, as a reminder of the relationship between Indigenous life, land and water, and colonial ruptures.

With “Pipelines and Prophecies,” Stimson depicted bison and Blackfoot stories in a way that inscribed the quiet depths of the plains. Both the pipeline and the prophecy carry materials across great distances of space and time; whether these materials are knowledge or oil, they impact present experience and future life. There is a sense of isolation and resolve in the work that will feel familiar to anyone who has lived on the prairies, and that takes on particular resonance in relation to Indigenous artists like Stimson who labour in resistance to colonial efforts to extinguish their culture and sustenance. From the introspective imagery and rich symbolism in the etchings to the single found- wood paddle and yellow raincoat placed in Stimson’s boat, the exhibition presented a space of deep re ection and a reminder of what is lost when people and land are exploited. —LAUREN FOURNIER