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White works


 

Whites Only (Medicine Cabinet) (2002) 22" H x 18" W

Whites Only - Medicine Cabinet is a mixed media work that is responding to a variety of common metaphors used by whites as excuses to deny the reality of white privilege. 

The top shelf consists of a collection of plastic medicine bottles that are labeled with text that point to commonly used words that are used to define the word White. I chose these bottles because they symbolize the "medicine" that makes white people feel better with regards to the issue of racism. Some of the words included on the labels are: Superiority, Master Class, Godliness, purity, cleanliness, etc.

The next compartment consists of a repetitive image of a "drunken Indian" printed on a transparency that has been glued into place as the background. On the shelf are individual packages of Kleenex that have been labeled with the text "WHITE GUILT", which is a disruptive strategy used to take attention away from the real issues at hand.

The third compartment holds three pairs of eyeglasses with painted white lens. The idea for this compartment stems from the "color blind" metaphor. It is commonly used in the context of seeing people as people and not as race. It also denies the reality of white privilege. Color-blindness is an excuse that is often used to suppress negative images that white individuals attach to people of color.

The bottom compartment contains four glass jars that have the text "FOR WHITES ONLY" sandblasted on the front. The jars are stuffed full with leather bootstraps. "Bootstrapism" is a metaphor that is constantly thrown in our faces. It perpetuates the idea that First Nations people are on equal footing with white people. It disregards the reality of the colonial, imperial and patriarchal hierarchical systems in place in this country. These systems have operated to position First Nations people as racially inferior and less deserving. Once again, it is a form of "blaming the victim."

White Power, Privilege, Authority, Racism (2001) 4' H x 3'W - excluding letters in measurement

This work functions to educate (and possibly implicate) people about the historical relationship between First Nations and whites by having the sandblasted text on the mirror superimposed with the viewer's reflection. This guides the viewer into understanding the position of the colonizer or the colonized. Furthermore, it raises a kind of conscious recognition of the power relations that have been lost to a politics of collective amnesia.

Colonize the Savages (2001) 20"H x 32" W (not including framed photos)

Colonize the Savages is a black boxed frame housing six white slip-cast ceramic bats with the text "Colonize the Savages" written in Red, Black and Yellow to represent the races who were considered to be SAVAGES during the colonization process. The work appears to be quite angry, but, for some reason, it gives me comfort because I know that its meaning can not be misconstrued. The whole process of colonization was one of violence; superiority was achieved through brutal force. These attitudes are still very obvious in the long-standing resentment towards treaty rights and the violent reactions that culminate with regards to these issues. The explosive reactions by whites during the Oka crisis serve as a prime example of this ongoing brutality.

 

The Cupboard of Contention (2001) 56" H x 22 1/2" W

The Cupboard of Contention conveys an understanding as to why many First Nations people have not done as well as many white people have. It consists of an antique (settler's?) hand-made kitchen cupboard that is painted white. On the shelves are thirty-five cast, hand painted ceramic soup cans. The white and red cans are representative of First Nations and white cultures. At first glance, they are comfortably identified as Campbell's soup cans. On closer examination, the viewer becomes aware of the text "Canada's Racism," as well as the French and English translations for the contents of the cans. This reveals the implications of existing as the other in a country that was founded on historical inequalities and long-standing cultural stereotypes. On the outer surface of the cupboard door I have added wooden letters which spell out "Oh Canada, Your Home Is Native Land." It is a subversive play on the national anthem of Canada and serves as the foundation for the contention.

Inside the cupboard are stacks of ceramic bills and gold coins to represent the consequence of what white people have received for dominating, oppressing, lying and cheating the First Nations peoples out of their rightful position in this country. Forestry, fishing, mining industries as well as businesses and corporate interests have made immense profits off of the resources through the displacement of many First Nations people. It is a reality that continues to position First Nations people in a constant struggle for survival. The text on the cans consists of processes such as colonization, oppression, domination, legislative brutality, and usufructary rights that made it possible to relegate First Nations people to the lowest of all positions while elevating the status of white people.

Ritualistic Cleansing of White Spaces by White Men (2002) Projected image

"Ritualistic Cleansing of White Spaces by White Men" is a projected slide image of Miniconjou Sioux, Chief Big Foot's body frozen in the snow. The main idea for this piece stems from a number of racist activities condoned by certain members of the police force, which resulted in the deaths of native men in Saskatoon. I was still residing in Vancouver when I heard the story being reported on the news. The first image that came to my mind was that of Chief Big Foot's body frozen in the snow. It is an image that I have become familiar over time through reading books on Native American history. I am utilizing his image as a symbol of the racist attitudes towards First Nations people, as well as the total disregard for First Nations peoples' lives across this country. I have included the text: Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Saskatoon and Winnipeg. This is to make people aware that this kind of carnage is still occurring with regards to the loss of First Nations peoples lives and even more so with First Nations women's lives across this country. The title refers to the historical notion that the city was designated as a white space for whites only due to the confining structures of the reserves. The high numbers of native bodies that are being dumped on the outskirts of towns throughout Canada are indeed symbolic of ritualistic cleansing of these white spaces.