In 2008 Rebecca Belmore created piece of art called Fringe. It’s a photograph of a woman, reclining, her back to us. Sown into her back are fringes, hanging down, some red, some white. You might see these on the bottom of a skirt for instance. The scar running the length of her back is obvious and disturbing. She says of this work:
As an Indigenous woman, my female body speaks for itself. Some people interpret the image of this reclining figure as a cadaver. However, to me it is a wound that is on the mend. It wasn’t self-inflicted, but nonetheless, it is bearable. She can sustain it. So it is a very simple scenario: she will get up and go on, but she will carry that mark with her. She will turn her back on the atrocities inflicted upon her body and find resilience in the future. The Indigenous female body is the politicized body, the historical body. It’s the body that doesn’t disappear.
The Canadian Encylopedia says this about her:
Increasingly recognized as one of the most important artists of her generation, Rebecca Belmore’s performances, videos, sculptures, and photographs starkly confront the ongoing history of oppression of Indigenous peoples in Canada…
Rebecca Belmore was raised in a large Anishinabe family in Upsala, Ontario. She left her small hometown to attend high school in neighbouring Thunder Bay. During the summer, Belmore migrated northwest to spend time with her maternal grandmother — who maintained a traditional lifestyle of trapping and fishing and spoke only her native Ojibwa — in the Anishinabe district of Sioux Lookout.
Ostracized as an Indigenous woman in a largely white high school, Belmore dropped out in her midteens to work a number of odd jobs before deciding to complete her secondary education. Upon returning for her final year, she befriended the high school art teacher who encouraged her to submit a drawing to a local competition where she won first prize. Buoyed by the positive response, the following year Belmore enrolled at the Ontario College of Art (OCA) to pursue a degree in Experimental Arts; she remained in the program from 1984 to 1987…
In 2005, Belmore was chosen as the first Indigenous woman to represent Canada at the Venice Biennale. The piece she produced for the show — a two-and-a-half-minute video loop back-projected on a curtain of flowing water in the darkened room of the Canada pavilion [called Fountain] — took her over a year and half to complete. The video depicts the artist frantically filling buckets of water from the Strait of Georgia and throwing its contents…at the screen.
And she said this about her art in 2008:
Part of my interest in making art is to provoke a viewer to think about certain issues. And I do that through creating images that may, on first sight appear to be – hopefully!- beautiful. But when you look closer you may see something that’s a little out of sync with that beauty. That’s where I hope to get people to think about the image they’re looking at.
I saw Facing the Monumental, which featured these and more pieces by Rebecca Belmore on Aug 5, 2018 at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Here is the audio of my experience with her works.
Find out more about Belmore at: