Canadian Art: Nation to Nation

Featured Image: Indians After Sex, Rose Saphan and Jeanette Armstrong

“Native Love” came only a few years after the Oka Crisis, at a time when gallerists only wanted artworks about “machine gun, razor wire,” said Rice, and stereotypes about the Mohawk and Haudenosaunee peoples were pervasive. Despite the antagonistic representations of Indigenous peoples that proliferated in the early 1990s, love was in the air. New generations of Indigenous artists and cultural thinkers didn’t want to be at war anymore—they wanted to make love. As Audra Simpson wrote in the exhibition’s accompanying essay, “Making Native Love”:

If we were to trust popular and scholarly representations of Native People we would have to conclude that they, unlike any other peoples in the world, are without love. Native people are represented in mechanistic and ultimately loveless terms: as hunter-gatherers and horticulturalists of yesterday and cultural revivalists of today. They are written in popular press as activists (troublemakers), as artists-with-a-mission, as cigarette smugglers. In new age journals as naturally in tune with the earth, in movies of the seventies as shape-changers. They are Indian Princesses, savage squaws, brave hearted men and guerilla warriors. Rarely however, are they in love (the tragedy of Pocahontas aside), rarely are they contemplating love, acting out of love or simply being, as they are—their Native selves in love or out of love, in the funk out of the funk. How can this be?

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