May is CONTACT Photography month in Toronto and like in previous years, some galleries start the month early.  One of these galleries is the Ryerson Image Centre.  This year, in the main gallery they are featuring the work of Shelley Niro, the 2017 winner of the Scotiabank Photography Award.  You may have seen some of her work at the AGO where her shirts series of photos is also on display.   Outside the building, in Devonian Square, there are large colourful abstract images glued onto large rocks.  These are the work of Scott Benesiinaabandan, a Montreal-based artist from the Obishikokaang Anishinabe First Nation.

below: First, the poster/sign at the entrance to the Ryerson Image Centre.  The four images on the left are from Niro’s shirt series of pictures – the full series is shown inside the gallery.  There is also a video from 2003 that features this woman and the T-shirts standing in this location.

4 photos by Shelley Niro, of indigenous woman wearing a white t shirt with words on them, plus aboriginal/original pictures of the artist.

below: A series of three photos framed together titled ‘Mohawk Worker’.  It is one of a series of six triples called ‘This Land is Mime Land’ (Apparently there are 12 in the series, but only 6 are on display here).  Each set in the series has an old sepia toned black and white photo in the center, a casual posed photo on the right (of the same woman in each), and a posed, hand coloured ‘parody’ photo on the left.  In this case, she is dressed in working clothes and a hard hat, but she’s applying lipstick and has a small compact mirror in her left hand.   Other works in this series include,  ‘Love Me Tender’ with the woman dressed as Elvis, and ‘Final Frontier’ with the woman dressed in a Star Trek outfit.

three pictures frames together, on the left is a woman in workmen's clothes and hard hat but putting on lipstick, in the middle is a vintage black and white photo

below: One of another set of pictures.  Hand painted black and white photos of these women posing (hamming it up) for the camera.  They are on the yellow brick road, and like Dorothy on her way to see the Wizard, they are wearing red shoes.  “Red Heels Hord” 1991.   It, like a lot of her work, challenges the stereotypes and cliches of Native American women.

a colourized black and white photo of three women hamming it up for the camera. All wearing red shoes and walking on a yellow sidewalk, beside a metal fence. by Shelley Niro

Shelley Niro was born in 1954 in Niagara Falls NY and grew up on the Six Nations of the Grand River Reserve near Brantford.  She graduated from OCA and a masters in Fine Art from the University of Western Ontario.

below: Four photos from “Are You My Sister?” 1994.   This is only part (4/12) of the series.  The glass was very reflective so you can see the shirt series that was on the opposite wall.  Like most of her work, the matte has been hand decorated.  In this case, patterns are made with performations in the matte.

four pictures of women, standing, matted in orange, orange tone to the photos, relfections of other photos in the glass, art by Shelley Niro

Scott Benesiinaabandan’s installation, ‘newlandia: debaabaminaagwad’  is in two parts.  First, on the sidewalk in front of the statue of Egerton Ryerson, the man who founded the University, is an image that has been glued to the ground.   Parts of that statue have been used in the making of the image – it’s not too easy to see in this photo, but the top part of the image is the same shape as the top of the statue of Ryerson.  Maybe you can see the purple draped head and the outstretched arm.  It’s like the statue has been draped with cloth and/or pictures.  In fact, the images used to create this were taken from photographs that Benesiinaabandan took of three First Nations flags.

below: The other part of ‘newlandia: debaabaminaagwad’ consists of large images adhere to rocks in the square, taking on the texture of the rocks.

Devonian Square in Toronto, large open area with wading pool (empty at the moment) and large boulders, small trees growing around the edge of the pool, two people walking through the pool area, a woman walking her dog on the sidewalk beside, rocks covered with artwork

rock covered with a digital image, glued on it, outside, trees around

Both of these artist have their own websites:
1.  Scott Benesiinaabandan
2.  Shelley Niro

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