by James Martin
In 1999, Nadia Myres academic advisor took her to see
an exhibit of Iroquois beadwork. The seemingly small moment had a huge
impact on her artistic direction. I probably wouldnt be making
this kind of work, explained the graduating MFA student, if Barbara
Layne hadnt brought me to the McCord Museum.
A graduate of the Emily Carr Institute of Art + Design, Myre came to Concordia
with what Professor Layne calls a challenging attitude and portfolio
of edgy street graffiti. The McCord exhibit, however, struck a chord
with Myres investigation of her Algonkin-Québécois
heritage, and she became interested in the huge history of
Beading is political, said Myre, whether its simply
the personal contribution to an age-old continuum (such as beading a traditional
flower design), or consciously reworking loaded imagery (such as beading
a Hydro-Québec logo). I really do see beading as an act of
Beading plays a huge role in Myres MFA final project, Cont(r)act,
which was curated by Concordia art history grad Rhonda Meier. Myre
describes Cont(r)act as being specific to my own investigations
into identity, but also a bit broader, in that its about two cultures
For Indian Act, Myre enlisted over 230 beaders (many were Concordia
Fine Arts students, others recruited from weekly beadings at the Native
Friendship Centre of Montreal and Concordias Centre for Native Education,
others still found via ads in the Montreal Mirror) to help her
bead over 56 pages of Canadas Indian Act.
Some of the pages are completely obscured by beadwork (white beads are
substituted for the text, letter-for-letter in between are red
beads, creating a Morse-code-like effect), others are only partially covered.
The framed pages are, as the titular pun hints, a powerful act. The
Indian Act is a document that controls Indian lives today, Myre
explained, but it was never translated into a Native tongue
yet it describes who and what a Native person is. Native people have a
love-hate relationship with it, so to bead over it was to kind of reclaim
it, and erase it.
Other sculptures in Cont(r)act continue along this theme of negotiation
of space between people, as understood through material. The 17th-century
treaty between Dutch settlers and the Iroquois is directly invoked by
Monument to Two-Row, Revised, which Myre created working from photographs
of the controversial and rarely-seen beaded wampum belt.
In History in Two Parts, Myre fused aluminum and birchbark to create
a full-size hybrid canoe. A video loop titled Portrait of a Self in
Motion shows Myre paddling this same craft in misty waters, subtly
riffing on the well-worn film image of spotting an Indian amid the
beauty of the wilderness.
Myres work is getting noticed. Both the Indian Art Centre and the
Canadian Museum of Civilization have purchased pages from her Indian Act,
and shes received significant grants from the Canada Council, le
Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec, and the National Aboriginal
Achievement Foundation. Barbara Layne says Cont(r)act is just the
Nadia has a very promising future that will significantly contribute
to the dialogues surrounding colonial histories, personal identities and
the complexities of hybrid cultures.
Myre is currently planning a new project involving beading, but doesnt
want to reveal too much at this stage. Fresh from the massive undertaking
of Cont(r)act, however, she admits to hoping for a bit of a breather.
I think for right now, she said with a laugh, Im
going to stick to beading small logos.
Cont(r)act runs at the Oboro Gallery (4001 rue Berri) until June
15. A show catalogue is forthcoming this fall.