Two/ Many Tribulations
Charlene Vickers, Judy Chartrand
Using the idea of the moccasin as a starting point, Vickers creates a personal connection to these objects. Growing up without the teachings or practices of moccasin making, she has had to acquire these skills from the world in which she lives- in fact, the one into which she was born. One pair of moccasins is beaded like the identity bracelets used for newborns in hospitals. Vickers beads the letters A-N-I-S-H-A-B-E and V-I-C-K-E-R-S into the material as a reclamation to her cultural history and personal identification. For another pair, she uses denim, which signals the contemporary lives of Aboriginal artists, whose histories of change have demanded adaptation to new materials and new contexts for art making...Another aspect of commercialism that inspires her work is the way traditional Native ideas and beliefs are used to sell products. One pair of moccasins is labeled "Kokanee", a beer company that uses the image of the Sasquatch in its media advertisements...Another pair carries labels from Shaftebury, a Vancouver brewery that produces Rainforest Ale. Vickers here highlights the irony of an urban business using the rainforest - most of which has been decimated in the name of commercial enterprise - as a marketing device. Judy Chartrand, of the Cree nation, is equally willing to confront the darker issues and histories of native people. She has created cabinets similar to Victorian cabinets of curiosities in which collectors devoid of understanding would house the (looted) treasures of their travels or their pocketbooks. However Judy's 'Cabinet of Contention' contains rows of Warholian soup cans, highly recognizable as signifiers of mass culture and contemporary art practice, and relabels them with words that name the negative repercussions of colonialism. A second cabinet houses pill bottles, each labeled with soporifics or 'snake oil' medicines meant to alleviate (but not cure) the discomforts of white guilt over historical racism...In addition to the cabinets, Judy has used traditional materials and techniques to produce a series of men's thongs, complete with thick bushes of hair peeking from underneath, which she calls her "Buffalo Soldiers". Made from traditionally tanned moosehide, these unusual garments are decorated with beadwork, caribou or moosehair tufting and porcupine quillwork. Each lined in red satin material for the comfort of the wearer, these very well endowed thongs play on the tradition of the openness of sexuality in Native culture. - Daina Warren, August 2004
Charlene Vickers and Judy Chartrand look at aspects of Native identity through combinations of the traditional and the contemporary. Vickers, who grew up with limited knowledge of her Anishabe heritage, reclaims her history with uniquely made moccasins. Chartrand, who was raised with both a traditional and contemporary understanding of her Cree history, has created what she calls "Cabinets of Contention" to examine the broader aspects of colonial impact. Through the many similarities and differences in both of the artists' work, their shared exhibit creates layers of ideas and questions which flow from their fabricated garments and contentious cabinets.