Radical Stitch

MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina
30 April – 28 August, 2022

By Janine Windolph

On June 2, 2022, my children, Dawlari and Corwyn, and I were fortunate to take in the exhibition Radical Stitch, organized by Indigenous curators Sherry Farrell Racette, Michelle Lavallee, and Cathy Mattes, at the MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina, Saskatchewan, Treaty 4. The exhibition features a large number of works by forty-eight Indigenous artists, with representation from across Turtle Island/North America. All of the works are powerful testaments to Indigenous resilience and adaptability. As a Cree mother and educator, my goal for the visit was to learn how Indigenous artists reflect on their identity and reclaim their worldview through their art practices.

Each piece is a single story bundle and within collection, offers in the context of the exhibition, a more holistic perspective of Indigenous experiences. The artists, both Indian residential school survivors and intergenerational survivors, share stories that are at times personal and at times reflect on the collective Indigenous experience.

The theme and spirit of futurism within the exhibition are highlighted by Skawenatti’s piece Wampum Presented by xox to the Queen (version 1) (2021–22). Corwyn noted that beads are like pixels, and beading is similar to the practice of pixel art in Minecraft, a digital platform. Skawenatti is no stranger to Minecraft, as virtual reality and digital spaces shape her art practice. This work allows a younger generation to see their interests reflected within the exhibition and is also a catalyst for a conversation on the topic of reciprocity and treaty relations in the future.

Dawlari was drawn to Marcia Chickeness’s Residential School Baby (1997–98), which conveys the ruptured relationship between mother and child. The colour combinations capture the eye from across the gallery. The bead pattern on the top of the cradleboard, where the child’s head would rest, looks like stars, encapsulating our ancestral relationship to the cosmos. Residential School Baby elicits mixed emotions. As part of the IRS legacy, many Indigenous children, including me and my children, did not have the chance to be raised with or learn how to make cradleboards, with which many skills and teachings are associated. Now this knowledge is slowly being retaught to the young generations. The hope is in the artwork itself, as it honours their spirits and provides comfort, wrapping them tightly, as if they were in the womb.

The collection of artworks in Radical Stitch conveys the diversity and complexity of Indigenous experiences and practices. Each piece, each story bundle, is not an object that shares the past; instead, the pieces offer a space also to reflect on the present and the future. The exhibition is an experience that thoughtfully transcends time and weaves together a diverse tapestry of Indigenous voices.

Originally published on Esse Magazine: Radical Stitch. Gratitude to Janine Windolph for granting permission to share her review.

Janine Windolph (Atikamekw/Woodland Cree) is the Director of Indigenous Arts at Banff Centre Arts and Creativity. Windolph is known as an Interdisciplinary artist: writer, artist, filmmaker, educator, curator, and storyteller. She has a Master of Fine Arts Interdisciplinary in Indigenous Fine Arts and Media Production from the University of Regina. Janine Windolph centres her work around Indigenous art and media production. Born in La Ronge, Saskatchewan, and a member of the Waswanipi Cree Nation (Quebec).

Photo credit: Corwyn Windolph