Meet Contemporary Arts alum Krystle Silverfox

June 18, 2024

Inspired by Indigenous feminism, trans-nationalism, de-colonialism, activism and lived experience, Interdisciplinary artist and FCAT School for the Contemporary Arts alumnus Krystle Silverfox’ conceptual works explore different materials, methodologies, and symbols.

Krystle Silverfox installing her work at the Yukon Arts Centre (courtesy of Mike Thomas/Yukon Arts Centre)

Silverfox is a member of the Selkirk First Nation and currently lives and works in Whitehorse, Yukon. Most recently she was shortlisted along with 4 other artists for the 2022 Sobey Art Award by the National Gallery of Canada. We spoke with Krystle about her work, navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, and her advice for the next generation of FCAT students.

Tell me a bit about yourself, your experience at SFU, and your research/work?
My name is Krystle Silverfox, I am a citizen of Selkirk First Nation and currently live in Whitehorse, Yukon. I lived on unceded Coast Salish territories (Metro Vancouver) for most of my life, and I consider both Vancouver and Whitehorse home.

I was a MFA student at Simon Fraser University between 2016 and 2019, where I was able to focus on developing my own artistic style and practice while exploring my identity as an Urban Indigenous woman.

Tell us a bit about what inspired your work? I’ve read a few mentions you draw inspiration from Indigenous Feminism and de-colonialism. How does that inspire your research/work?
My work is inspired by all sorts of things- it can be research, theory, and material practice, or it can be something simple like a conversation or piece of graffiti. I feel that visual art is a way to communicate without words.  A lot of my work reflects on my own experiences, and the personal is political. Thinking about consumption of land, land stewardship, bodies, representation, and relationships – I try to use my artistic practice to explore these concepts.  For me, Indigenous feminism is about understanding that experiences are unique and intersect with many facets of life.

What are you working on these days?
Recently I’ve been spending my time pushing my own comfort zone through artistic practice, such as playing around with different materials (yarn, sticks, rocks, paint, beads) and seeing what sort of art or concepts pop up.  Materials and forms can invoke so many different ideas, and so I try to let the belongings/objects guide me. 

Since leaving SFU, you’ve been busy! You’ve earned a 2021 finalist nomination for the Yukon Prize for Visual Arts, worked with the City of Richmond, completed the 2020/2021 Shakaat Artist-in Residence, and much more. What does this work and recognition mean to you?  
It has been such a wild ride since I studied at SFU, life as an artist has been both rewarding and challenging. I was a finalist in the 2018 RBC Painting competition, the 2018/2020 Lind prize, 2019 Saltspring National Art prize,, and the Yukon Prize in 2021 – I am still shocked and humbled that my art has been so well received! It shows me that my art and practice have meaning to others, and that is such a reward as an artist.

Ets'edegél' (spear game) by Krystle Silverfox

And now, you’re a finalist for the 2022 Sobey Art Award. What was does that mean for you?
Making the Sobey Award Shortlist is such a surprise! I always thought that being nominated was all I ever wanted as an artist – that is, to be recognize by an art gallery or curator and have their support for the Sobey application. But making the longlist, then the shortlist – wow! That was a lot more than I had expected and I am so thrilled to have this opportunity to share my art to the world.

Tell us a bit about your experience as the Shakaat Artist-In-Residence?
The Shakaat Artist in residence program is amazing – they provide an art studio in a cabin beside the Yukon River for 3 weeks along with a rotating roster of other artists – beaders, carvers, stained glass – it’s a great way to connect with the Yukon arts community.  I am excited to return to the Shakaat Artist residency August 2022!

Works from Krystle Silverfox's tth’í’ yáw nan (thread beads land) series displayed at King Edward Station, Vancouver, BC (photo by Jocelyne Junker)

As an artist navigating the COVID-19 pandemic and the impacts on the arts community, how are you finding support and strength?
The Covid-19 pandemic was a challenge. I went from having studio visits in person to navigating zoom and learning to digitalize my practice. However, with these new means of communicating and working online, it has allowed me to connect with different communities virtually, which means new opportunities. For example in 2021 I was able to study museum practices with the Art Gallery of Ontario, which may not have happened before the pandemic. Currently, I am working with the Arts Assembly doing a remote research residency, which is an online artist residency allowing me to conduct research anywhere. I am hopeful that these practices help to make art more accessible.

Beaded Landscape 3 by Krystle Silverfox

What advice would you like to share with current and future Indigenous and non-Indigenous students interested in the arts?
The most impactful thing you can do as an artist is to tell your own story – your art, culture(s), and experiences make you unique. Art is a way to use your voice, to find joy, to experiment, and challenge yourself  - do not limit yourself to one practice, art is anything and everywhere. And make sure you apply for EVERYTHING – a rejection is the equivalent to not applying – you will miss every shot you don’t take.

Anything else you’d like to share with the FCAT and SFU community?
Mussi cho to SFU, FCAT and the SCA – your support has been the world to me and I am so thankful for the experiences gained.

To learn more about the 2022 Sobey Award shortlist, check out their website and see more of Krystle’s work on her instagram ​​@krystlesilverfox