Amanda Strong (Michif [Métis]), "Maashchii (to move)," 2018. Mixed media. Collection of the artist. // Photo: Don Hall

Art Gallery of Alberta exhibition explores Indigenous knowledge through boarding culture

Boarder X
Art Gallery of Alberta; Jan. 26 – May 19. Open skate hours: Sat., Jan. 26 (2 – 5 p.m.); Sun., Jan. 27 (11 a.m. – 5 p.m.).

A new exhibition at the Art Gallery of Alberta, Boarder X, explores the intersection of Indigenous art and culture with surfing, skateboarding, and snowboarding. A version of the show was first launched at the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG), but curator Jaimie Isaac says four additional artists have been invited to submit new work for the national tour.

Bracken Hanuse Corlett, who is from the West Coast, Amanda Strong, who is originally from Saskatchewan and now lives in Vancouver, and Meagan Musseau, who is from the East Coast, all contributed new work to the show. Michael Langan of Colonialism Skateboards in Regina and Kent Monkman of Toronto also partnered to create new work for the exhibit, creating paintings displayed across multiple skateboard decks.

Bracken Hanuse Corlett (Wuikinuxu, Klahoose, Kwakawaka’wakw), “Potlatch or Die,” 2018. Acrylic on wood, horse hair. Private collection // Photo: Don Hall

Isaac, who is the curator of Indigenous and contemporary art at WAG, says the additional artists were invited because their work is very relevant to Boarder X, but it was also important to her to include more female artists in the show.

“As a woman who is a practitioner—as a curator and an artist, but also [someone who practices] skateboarding, and snowboarding, and surfing—and just [because of] the awareness of the gender biases in those sports … the inclusion of more women in the show was really important for me, to have those voices represented,” Isaac says.

She skateboarded as a youth, started surfing in her 20s, and has been snowboarding for over 20 years. Isaac says it was these “ways of being” that led to her interest in finding other Indigenous artists “that thought about the intersection of their culture, the sport, and their artistic practice.”

Isaac points out that surfing originated with pre-contact Polynesian cultures, and that both skateboarding and snowboarding developed from surfing.

“That was the interest, really, to think about those narratives of combining or thinking through your culture through artistic practice, and boarding practices as ways of responding to the land in a contemporary way, in a relevant way,” she says.

Roger Crait (Cree/French), “The Death Painting (4 panels),” 2017. Oil on canvas. Collection of the artist. // Photo: Don Hall

Isaac says the exhibit also looks at boarding culture as it’s attributed to Indigenous ways of being and Indigenous knowledge.

She adds that the show challenges stereotypes.

“The art stereotyped as being associated with skateboarding … is largely these ideas of graffiti art, and only graffiti art … and that’s just simply not the case,” she says. “This show really proves that thinking through these ideas, and these movements, and responding to the land through these sports, that there are different ways of expression.”

The show includes a variety of mediums, including paintings, weaving, puppets, a skateboard ramp, a snowboarding jacket, and videos.  

Isaac is a member of Sagkeeng in Treaty 1 territory and identifies as a curatorial activist. She has been working as a curator at an institution for three and a half years and freelanced as a curator before that. She says that though arts institutions have traditionally been white spaces, she is seeing a change.

“I think it’s really been interesting to be a part of a change, in the arts and cultural world, to really broaden the view, broaden the perspectives, and I think that part of that is to also address perspectives and voices, and just bring more voices into the fold,” she says.

Vernon Ah Kee: cantchant is running alongside Boarder X. It references the 2005 Cronulla race riots in Australia, and includes an Aboriginal perspective, and suspended surfboards painted with the colours of the Australian Aboriginal flag and portraits of Ah Kee’s relatives.

Correction: This article originally stated that four additional artists were invited to submit new work for the Edmonton exhibition of Boarder X, but they were in fact invited to submit new works to the national tour, and their works had already been shown at the MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina.

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