“I knew I had a lot to say, … and it was a way for me to talk about the lens that I come from as a northerner, and as a woman.”
A man with chiselled features and serious brown eyes looked out from a billboard on 20th Street in Saskatoon. His right hand held a hammer high.
Wally Dion created this portrait. Putting it on a billboard in 2006 was Felicia Gay’s idea.
“I thought it would be really great to have it on a billboard in the core neighbourhood, so that when people are driving by on their way to work … there’s just a strong, beautiful Indigenous man, who’s a worker,” said Gay.
“His image was really pushing up against a stereotype that people just accept on 20th Street. … I think the perception is that every Indigenous person you see there is on welfare and not working, which is not true.”
Since Gay began curating art exhibitions 15 years ago in Saskatoon, interrupting the dominant narrative has been her goal.
She sought to do so at Wanuskewin, the last place she worked in Saskatoon. And it’s her aim at the MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina, where she’s now a curatorial fellow.
Another of Gay’s first examples of using art to change a narrative was the Moon Lake Series, photographs Gay created with artist Joi Arcand.
“It was so emotionally draining that I never made art again. It was traumatizing,” said Gay, reflecting upon a sepia photograph. As the model in the photo, Arcand’s eyes are closed, head leaning against a tree. She’s covered in a blanket, which is covered in leaves.
This photo was part of the exhibition Give Her A Face, which showed at AKA Gallery and was dedicated to six missing and murdered Indigenous women — Calinda Waterhen, Shelly Napope, Eva Taysup, Mary Jane Serloin, Janet Christine Sylvestre, and Shirley Lonethunder. Serial killer John Martin Crawford was convicted of killing the first four women. Waterhen, Napope and Taysup’s remains were found in 1994 at Moon Lake near Saskatoon.
“When I was 16, this case made such an impression on me because I remember distinctly that all these women were identified as street workers, women that were in dangerous situations, basically saying that they kind of caused this violence upon themselves,” Gay recalled. “They were never given the dignity of having a picture in the newspaper.”
Gay curated the exhibition, designed to make people see “that these were human beings, these women were human and deserved better.”
Gay was born in Edmonton to a Swampy Cree mother and Scottish father — he had come to Canada, ironically, to work for the Hudson Bay Company.
She was raised in Cumberland House, 300 kilometres northeast of Prince Albert, a community well known as the Hudson Bay Company’s first inland trading post.
“I read a lot and I loved art. But I didn’t know anything about art history. I didn’t know anything about Indigenous people actually having a visual culture and contemporary art,” said Gay.
She left Cumberland House as an 18-year-old to attend the University of Saskatchewan, where she says an Indigenous art history class with Ruth Cuthand opened her eyes.
“For the first time I saw that there are all these contemporary Indigenous artists that have utilized visual culture to create voice, to kind of move and push gently, sometimes aggressively, at that dominant narrative. And I just became passionate about contemporary art.”
During university, Gay worked at the Snelgrove Gallery at the U of S, and at a small gallery in The Pas. She later worked for the Tribe Inc. artist-run centre.
“It’s like fate was just kind of pulling me the direction it wanted me to go and at some point I just had to kind of go all-in” as a curator, said Gay.
“I knew I had a lot to say, … and it was a way for me to talk about the lens that I come from as a northerner, and as a woman,” she added.
Coming to the end of her art history degree, Gay was at a loss for job prospects.
She didn’t want to move too far from home — even now, Regina is farther away than she’d like to be.
“I was reading Linda Tuhiwai Smith, an article about language nests. And it was about how these local Indigenous women, kokums and women from the neighbourhood, they created these language nests to revitalize the Maori language. And holy crap, I was so inspired,” said Gay.
“I’m like, why the hell am I waiting for a job? I’ll make my own job, you know? I’ll start my own artist-run centre and I’ll do this for my people.”
She called her classmate Arcand and pitched the plan. They had a fundraiser, rented a storefront downtown on 20th Street, enlisted family members to help renovate, and kept fundraising.
The Red Shift gallery was born.
“It was a way for us to work strategically with our Indigenous art community so that they could either show their work to our community where they’re at, or else to help make career artists buff up their CV so they could get into the galleries if that’s what they wanted to do,” said Gay.
She felt it was important to give to the community, since she heard so often that she’d have to move to Toronto or Montreal to have a curatorial career.
“I did Red Shift gallery for five years with no pay, and I was teaching at the university as a sessional,” said Gay. She had three children (her fourth was born since) and was working on her master’s degree. She did all the administrative and physical work running the gallery, and she burnt out.
Red Shift closed in 2010.
“There’s so much expected from artist-run centre directors for such little pay that it’s totally unfair, but we need them,” said Gay. “They serve a real purpose in our community and they certainly need a lot more support than they receive. Because they reach people that wouldn’t necessarily come to larger public institutions, and they can be like a gateway for people to come to larger institutions and feel welcome … And that’s why I’m here, I think.”
Since October, Gay has worked as a curatorial fellow at the MacKenzie. She’s working part-time, primarily on researching the Kampelmacher collection that was donated in 2016.
She’s also pursuing her PhD at the University of Regina, about interrogating white supremacy and patriarchy within cultural institutions.
“I’ve worked in all different types of institutions — whether it was not-for-profit organizations, within academia, within artist-run centre culture, Indigenous cultural institutions — and throughout them all, I’ve experienced patriarchy and white supremacy that has touched me personally in various ways,” said Gay.
“So how do we create safe spaces? … There needs to be change within infrastructure, within how boards are enacted, lots of things.”
She has other projects on the go, too.
At the MacKenzie, she’s bringing in Power Lines, an exhibition she curated at Wanuskewin featuring the work of Norval Morrisseau.
She is also working on a group exhibition called Touching Earth and Sky.
On the side, she’s guest curating this fall’s 2020 Biennal of Contemporary Art through the Remai Art Gallery.
And, she’ll be back in Saskatoon early next year for a large-scale exhibition of Ruth Cuthand’s work, which she’s curating at the College galleries on campus.
“It’s a lot of work. I have a lot on my plate, definitely, but I’ve done it before,” said Gay.
The LA Art Show Returns With an Environmental Focus – Surface Magazine
Environmental issues have taken on a particular urgency in the past year. Climate scientists have warned that if nations fail to immediately pivot from fossil fuels, catastrophic consequences await. Artists frequently reckon with this grim reality, with many expressing skepticism—if not outright anger—at climate inaction, which has resulted in the destruction of coral reefs, intense wildfires, rising sea levels, and the extinction of beloved animal species. The issues surrounding climate change have become top of mind for The LA Art Show, which is kicking off the city’s eagerly anticipated 2022 art season with a newfound ecological lens thanks to the return of DIVERSEartLA.
This year’s edition, which kicks off today at the Los Angeles Convention Center, sheds light not only on how artists represent the environment in their work, but how humanity’s role factors into the equation. “DIVERSEartLA 2022 will encourage visitors to confront the complex challenges of our global climate crisis and imagine potential solutions,” says Marisa Caichiolo, the show’s curator, who encouraged participating art museums to partner with science and environmental institutions. “This topic is at the heart of a growing number of art narratives, including exhibitions built with high-tech innovations designed to inspire artistic appreciation and the desire to respond to environmental challenges, reinforcing the value of translating environmental advocacy into art.”
Among the programming highlights is “Our turn to change,” a worry-inducing video installation by Andrea Juan and Gabriel Penedo Diego and presented by the Museum of Nature of Cantabria Spain that awakens viewers to melting polar ice caps that are causing sea levels to rise drop by drop. The Torrance Art Museum, meanwhile, presents “Memorial to the Future,” a collaborative piece curated by Max Presneill that centers Brutalist architecture as a failed model of idealism while highlighting the immediate need for environmental action. And in “The Earth’s Fruits” by Guillermo Anselmo Vezzosi, waste unexpectedly takes on a dignified second life.
The LA Art Show opens at the Los Angeles Convention Center, South Hall, from Jan. 19–23.
300-pound local art heist took 4 minutes | News | pentictonherald.ca – pentictonherald.ca
At Art Basel, FLUF Haus Breaks Barrier Between Metaverse And Physical World – Forbes
Last month, while the cultural elite wrapped up Art Basel with the usual lavish purchases of Keith Herring paintings and Daniel Arsham decayed sculptures, a different crowd had gathered just a couple blocks down the South Beach coastline. The world’s first “Metaverse star” was about to perform.
FLUF Haus, the first in-person gathering for a community of virtual 3D Rabbits (known as Flufs), was hosting a concert for the music star known as “Angelbaby”—a large tattooed pink rabbit whose identity, appearance, and music had been created entirely on the metaverse.
Despite Angelbaby’s entirely virtual existence, some 600 people—largely stakeholders in the NFT community, FLUF World—had flown from across the globe to witness the in-person debut. A projection screen overlooked the dance floor where guests including Trinidad James and Boyz Noise commingled amidst fire breathers and models. Screens scattered throughout the venue displayed various Fluf avatars, broken up by animated scenes from FLUF World.
The event—which felt like a bit of a coming out party for newly created FLUF World—underscored a crucial, often overlooked detail of the booming NFT space: community.
“The most important thing to me with FLUF World was the Discord.” said Robert Hellauer, a 33-year old financial analyst who became a Fluf holder in September. “I went to all the Discords, and all the metaverses have a different vibe…And you could just feel the energy with this one.”
Like the notorious Bored Apes or CryptoPunks, the value of a Fluf isn’t just as a piece of digital art, but as a digital identity. Much like how Supreme or Thrasher did for skaters, NFTs codify culture into appearance, branding one’s allegiance to virtual clans and online subcultures. Buying into a community, literally, helps carve out one’s metaverse identity. FLUF World recognized this early on, and decided to intentionally avoid the toxicity present in many virtual worlds, instead focusing on creating a dynamic and inclusive world to house their digital animal characters.
This appeal of intentional community has seemingly paid off, as many at Fluf World expressed having previous interest in the metaverse, but hadn’t yet found a space that appealed to them.
“These guys think about things other guys don’t,” says Tom Soler, a software manager attending the event. “Decentraland launched way ahead but it feels very empty. These guys have thought through what is the most engaging way to create a community for people who want to hang together.”
This engagement is reflected in Fluf World’s 42,000 member Discord where “#new-fluffers are greeted with a reminder to “treat each other with respect”, and after searching through the Fluf Radio and sales channels can navigate to the “Above Ground” section, to find channels such as #health-and-wellness, and #time-to-talk.
That’s not to overlook the draw of Fluf World’s impressive technology and artistic detail. Rather than use 8-bit images or 2D cartoons, Fluf World features fully 3D characters designed by animators who’ve worked on projects including Avatar and the Lord of The Rings trilogy. Characters hover over customizable, multi-dimensional environments—which include both personalized character music and location based-backgrounds that range from a desert to futuristic city (collectively known as “scenes and sounds”).
Along with the 10,000 original rabbit ‘Flufs’, FLUF World introduced their second line of characters —known as Party Bears— of which all 10,000 sold out in under 10 minutes. Beyond avatars, stakeholders can also purchase virtual real estate known as “burrows”, and even AI-brained spiders (known as “thingies”) which use pattern recognition to create and mint their own new virtual art. All of Fluf World’s characters constantly evolve, and often contain hidden attributes that develop and reveal themselves over time.
Together, this technology, art, and community channels weave together a digital world that shows promise of true depth; an online space with the potential to create a self-perpetuating cycle of growth based on bottom-up user participation.
“When it comes to other [metaverse] platforms, it’s all about roadmaps,” says FLUF World superfan Nick Synodis, (who goes by the handle Knux). “Fluf is in a league of its own. Its competitor is Spotify. It’s Facebook.”
A Record Label For The Metaverse
One of the most promising examples of FLUF World’s potential to be a truly dynamic multi-channel world is their partnership with NFT music collective, Hume.
Described by co-founders Jay Stolar and David Beiner as the “Web3 version of a record label,” Hume is the NFT music minting service that allows Flufs to commercially own and display exclusive music snippets in their character environment. With a tagline of “we are hume. we are many,” Hume has the most active twitter following in the Fluf World community, acting as both differentiator and hype builder for the virtual world.
“We’re creating music-driven Metastars,” says record producer Gino the Ghost, the event’s emcee and Hume evangelist. “The next Billie Eilish or Drake is gonna be in the metaverse.”
Asked what made him interested in migrating his experience from the traditional music realm, Gino (who has composed music for the likes of rapper Saweetie) expressed both an ardent fascination with FLUF World, as well as sharing a commonly held frustration with the revenue structure of the music industry.
”What I primarily do, I work with the pop side, the rap side, the dance side —and they all want to know, ‘How do I get into NFTs?’ All these creatives are so tired of the labels and the royalties—and music NFTs are a way out that isn’t cash-grabby.”
With the creation of their metaverse star Angelbaby, Gino and the founders at Hume are optimistic that Web3 could create a paradigm shift not just in how artists generate revenue, but how fans can benefit from their artist loyalty. In this case for instance, by financially supporting Angelbaby’s origin story (which involved being lost in the desert after being transported 1000 years back in time), fans received some of Angelbaby’s original minted music. This music in turn grows in value as Angelbaby’s popularity rises.
“People who helped Angelbaby in the desert, now they all own a piece of their song that is worth $400-500. Over time this increases the value of their own NFT,” says Beiner.
Gino explains the relationship a bit more simply: “It a way for fans to make fucking money supporting their favorite artists.”
World Competition, or Synergy?
As Gino’s introduction wraps up and Angelbaby’s giant character is projected onto a screen in front of a sea of cellphone recordings, one aspect of FLUF Haus becomes immediately clear: it’s surprisingly normal.
For all the talk of Web3 and NFTs the metaverse, the event feels much like any other concert—with people dancing in close quarters, and having a good time with people they know. Save for the fact that the performing artist is a 13-foot tall pink rabbit with no known human identity, you’d be hard pressed to know this was an NFT event.
And in a way, that’s kind of the point. As virtual representations of ourselves continue to grow—and the metaverse becomes increasingly populated—so too inevitably will our online identities. But that doesn’t mean we will forgo our personalities in the physical world. Like gamertags, or bitmojis or animal crossing islands, spaces like FLUF World will add another layer onto our beings that enhance, not replace our existing lives. FLUF Haus was trying to demonstrate that connection to the world.
“The meta verse is going to be this amazing digital space,” says Knux. “But the ultimate goal of it is to live in both worlds.”
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