Through beadwork, textiles, photography, video and sculpture, Montreal-based artist Nadia Myre draws attention to the power and histories of Indigenous textile practices that she situates in a colonial context. Balancing Acts is a survey of artwork made over the last ten years – some on view in this exhibition for the first time.

Nadia Myre’s deep respect for and commitment to the act of making things by hand is evident throughout this exhibition. Balancing ancestral and contemporary methods of working, her practice is informed by shared family, social and community knowledge as much as it engages present-day museum practices and academic research. A 2018 digital wallpaper print, Contact in Monochrome (Toile de Jouy) incorporates a jumble of all-too-familiar colonial and Indigenous motifs, each one more stereotyped than the next: hand-drawn images of nineteenth-century European beaver pelt top hats, imposing colonial architecture, tobacco leaves, wigwams and birch bark canoes.

Myre is interested in destabilizing fixed readings of personal and cultural identity through switching scale, materiality and context. The artist’s ongoing Code Switching project extends these methods to focus on shifting and shared Indigenous and European relationships. Since 2015, she has photographed, altered and recreated fragments of clay pipes that she collected from the banks of London England’s River Thames, where they were manufactured for centuries. Their shapes are much like those made and used by Indigenous communities; both were used for the smoking of tobacco, a significant trade item and a mutually enjoyed activity. Myre’s project of making new images and objects (tobacco baskets, sculptures and photographs) from these commonly found colonial artifacts confounds institutionalized archaeological narratives of authenticity by creating a new narrative that considers productive cultural exchange.

A massive red netted textile structure flags troubled relationships to our environment; a series of intricate black-and-white loom-woven beadwork is a graphic interpretation of the sharper, darker edges of human scars and healing. Large-scale photographs and video capture the artist’s skilled, precise gestures of hand stitching, inviting viewers to pay close attention to small, oft-overlooked and undervalued markers of cultural production and loss through a poetic, feminist backdrop of craft, care and resilience.

Nadia Myre is a Montreal-based interdisciplinary artist of mixed Algonquin and French Canadian heritage. A member of the Kitigan Zibi Anishnabeg First Nation, her work explores the politics of belonging by positioning her practice within a framework of resistance and resilience.

She is the recipient of numerous commissions and awards, notably: Tree of Shifting Forms (Canadian Embassy, Paris, 2018), Eel Spirit, Basket, and Fence, (City of Ottawa, Light Rail Transit, Pimisi Station, 2018), Living with Contradiction (Banff Centre for the Arts, Walter Phillips Gallery Indigenous Commission Award, 2016), and the Sobey Art Award (2014). Recent solo exhibitions include Code Switching and Other Work (The Briggait, Glasgow International, 2018), Acts that Fade Away (Ryerson Image Centre, 2018), Tout ce qui reste/Scattered Remains (Montreal Museum of Fine Art, 2017), Decolonial Gestures or Doing it Wrong? Refaire le chemin (McCord Museum, 2016), Oraison/Orison (Oboro, 2014). Her work appears in publications such as ArtForum, Art Journal, ArtNews, Canadian Art, Esse, ETC, Le Monde, New York Times, Parachute, Spirale, and the Washington Post. Myre is the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Art Practices at Concordia University, Montreal.