Sarah Biscarra-Dilley’s drawn/painted image hangs in native group show Emnowaangosjig/Coming Out at Toronto Free Gallery.
EMNOWAANGOSJIG/COMING OUT: THE SHIFTING AND MULTIPLE SELF at Toronto Free Gallery (1277 Bloor West) to June 24. 416-913-0461. See listing. Rating: NNNN
What is it like to be aboriginal and queer? Race, identity and sexuality are the core themes of this thoughtful and often funny group show about life on the sexual, racial and cultural margins. It addresses passing in mainstream society as both a compromise and a survival strategy, and, with its varied media and subtle conceptual jokes, explores and celebrates the act of coming out.
Works by nine artists, curated by Vanessa Dion Fletcher and Jessie Short, draw from an array of aboriginal cultural traditions and pop culture references. From the faux traditional pictorial histories of Sarah Biscarra-Dilley to the tongue-in-cheek religious kitsch collages of Adrian Stimson, the works weave new narratives of sexual identity outside hetero-normative boundaries. In doing so, they invent sexual archetypes that are shifting and multiple, never fixed or staying in any one guise or mask for long.
This is a task that requires a light touch and a trickster's temperament. Thirza Cuthand's wry sense of humour works very well in her faux sensationalist You Are A Lesbian Vampire, a three-minute soap opera portraying the problems of being an immortal lesbian bloodsucker. Lampooning the aura of danger and romance of her lesbian/native identity by borrowing from vampire dramas like True Blood, she also speaks to the difficulties of being a perennial outsider.
Cheryl L'Hirondelle dominates the back of the gallery space with her ghostly installation Don't Freeze Up. A tent contains a small projector that casts the shadow of a woman crossing through the tent's interior. Viewers become unwitting witnesses of her preparations for bed or for a visitor. L'Hirondelle here gently touches on the profound role of mystery in the collective sexual imagination. The shadow is as fleetingly dreamlike, alluring and ephemeral as our ideas about identity and intimacy.