ANNA LEONOWENS GALLERY // Marianne Nicolson (BC): “The Sun Shines, the River Runs” (2019)

Commissioned specifically for //RESPONSIVE 2019, this artwork is based on the window architecture of the old Dominion Building in downtown Halifax.  The name of the building evokes a sense of Canadian Nationalism based in colonial oppression and resource extraction.  The word “dominion” implying dominance, supremacy, superiority, hegemony and authority.  The word “dominion” has been used to refer to the state creation of Canada which at the time of its birth required agreements with the Indigenous Peoples which since then have largely been ignored or denied.  The artwork appropriates an architectural feature of the Dominion Building (metaphorically an architectural feature of the nation itself) and integrates/transforms it into a blue lit glass window which is incised with pictograph imagery celebratory of the entrenchment of Section 35 into the Canadian Constitution in 1982.  It is referential to the recognition of treaty rights.  The work is inspired in part by the success of the Donald Marshall Jr. case, which forced Canadian authorities to recognize the treaty rights of the local Indigenous Nations. The window is lit from behind and casts a powerful blue shadow on the floor/ground in front of it.  It acts as a visual metaphor for the treaty saying: “As long as the sun shines and rivers flow…”

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Marianne Nicolson

Marianne Nicolson is an artist activist of the Musgamakw Dzawada’enuxw First Nations. The Musgamakw Dzawada’enuxw Nations are part of the Kwakwaka’wakw (Kwak’wala speaking peoples) of the Pacific Northwest Coast. She is trained in both traditional Kwakwaka’wakw forms and culture and contemporary gallery and museum-based practice. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Emily Carr University of Art and Design (1996), a Master of Fine Arts (2000) from the University of Victoria, as well as a Master of Arts (2005) in Linguistics and Anthropology and a PhD (2013) in Linguistics and Anthropology with a focus on space as expressed in the Kwak’wala language. Nicolson works as a Kwakwaka’wakw cultural researcher and historian, as well as an advocate for Indigenous land rights. Her practice is multi-disciplinary encompassing photography, painting, carving, video, installation, monumental public art, writing and speaking.

All her work is political in nature and seeks to uphold Kwakwaka’wakw traditional philosophy and worldview through contemporary mediums and technology. Exhibitions include the 17th Biennale of Sydney, Australia; The Vancouver Art Gallery, The National Museum of the American Indian in New York, Nuit Blanche in Toronto, Ontario, Museum Arnhem, Netherlands and many others. Major monumental public artworks are situated in Vancouver International Airport, the Canadian Embassy in Amman, Jordan and the Canadian Embassy in Paris, France.

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