Emnowaangosjig: Coming Out @ the Toronto Free Gallery
June 18, 2012 § Leave a comment
The Anishnaabe term “emnowaangosjig”, is a literal translation of the process of opening up, exposing one’s true self or actively coming out. In keeping with its title, the Toronto Free Gallery’s current exhibition, Emnowaangosjig: Coming Out, The Shifting and Multiple Self, specifically highlights issues of individuality within the aboriginal community. This group show consists of nine artists; connected through the fact that they are all of aboriginal ancestry and are all practicing homosexual artists or queer theorists. Each artist individually examines the notion of “hierarchical identity”, wherein personal traits are either revered or reviled based on socio-political and cultural contexts. The space of the “Other”, a concept related to the ways that individuals or groups define their existence via a position of difference, is yet another theme examined in Emnowaangosjig: Coming Out. Adrian Stimson’s digital print series “Buffalo Boy’s Born Again” (2002) stems from a performance work of the same name and directly confronts Stimson’s self identification as “Other”. In so doing, the sequence of prints all place Stimson himself, who is dressed in drag, within historically and socially dominant narratives, i.e. the Bible and classic children’s fables.
Some of Emnowaangosjig: Coming Out’s noteworthy pieces also include Sarah Biscarra-Dilley’s “Masahai” (2011), a collage that details the otherwise silenced accounts of “Two-Spirited people… [and] queers” through a mixture of illustration, quotations and symbology. The gallery’s backspace holds Cheryl L’Hirondelle’s installation “Don’t Freeze Up” (2008), a piece that explores the process of bodily identification and is comprised of a seemingly inaccessible tent with a shadowy silhouetted presence behind it. In front of the tent sits a beautifully harrowing mannequin figure sporting stylized ceremonial clothing.
Emnowaangosjig: Coming Out runs until June 24