The photographic works of Arthur Renwick, Adrian Stimson, and Jeff Thomas are diverse, and to varying degrees, confrontational expressions of First Nations identity. Unmasking explores their individual strategies, which can be gentle, campy, or whimsical, while creating conversations between contemporary art, mass culture, and representations of the past.
All three artists use staging, or posing, of the human subject, referring directly or obliquely to photographic documents, such as Edward S. Curtis's monumental and flawed The North American Indian, as well as stereotypical three-dimensional objects, ranging from sculptures to toys. All three also look to the built environment and the landscape for vestiges of First Nations representation and still active systems of belief. Every work in Unmasking carries signs of rupture in the historical account – signs that draw out specific histories and contemporary realities. Their mises-en-scène and performances are based on sound research and deep understanding of cultural traditions, while firmly implanted in the present. Their images powerfully state: we are here now; recognize us; acknowledge us; deal with us.
The exhibition has been organized by independent curators Martha Langford and Sherry Farrell Racette for the Canadian Cultural Centre, within the context of Photoquai – Renwick, Stimson, and Thomas are featured in the 2009 edition.