Krista Belle Stewart, Eye Eye (detail), 2018. Douglas Lake earth (unformed and formed), bucket. Image courtesy the artist.
Krista Belle Stewart: Eye Eye
June 19, 2018 - April 27, 2019
Krista Belle Stewart's site-specific installation Eye Eye takes the artist's land in Douglas Lake, BC as a foundation. Responsive to its institutional context, Stewart brings her home territory to occupy the Teck Gallery. Eye Eye references an Okanagan phrase uttered to demonstrate one is present and, by way of attention the work uses the land as referent, material and concept in the form of earth made into tiles and installed on the gallery walls in a grid, as well as used as a pigment on gallery walls. This project connects to earlier works by Stewart in which her land was incorporated into installations and performances. In those projects the land was held in buckets and other vessels, and sonified with contact microphones. The land is seen by the artist as the oldest archive: traces of culture are inherent to the material.
Eye Eye is evocative of multiple histories of labour, land use and art. Stewart's strategies expose the tensions between personal and institutional narratives that are imposed on Indigenous bodies and their relationship to land, the way that the land services colonial systems and the way it can resist those systems. In working to transform the earth into hundreds of square tiles, Stewart conjures up ancient and ongoing production techniques and knowledges, architectural and sculptural forms, colonization, and surveying. And by installing the tiles in a grid, Stewart connects a view on land use to modern art history that includes the grand gestures of Land Art by the likes of Michael Heizer, Sol Lewitt's conceptual wall drawings and Agnes Martin's abstractions.
The tile is a sculpture as well as component of a flat picture plane, holding an image on its surface while coalescing into an environment that interrupts the institutional materiality. The Teck Gallery is an implicitly performative space in that it accommodates continuous and intersecting activities that are not necessarily programmed by SFU Galleries. It functions as a public art site that has a large number of incidental viewers. Sited in this context Stewart's work infiltrates into the university, an institution that instructs cultural interpretation, and offers a different kind of knowledge of the land and the teachings of Douglas Lake to SFU and Vancouver. The artist will be making new tiles for the walls over the course of the project.
Stewart's work has been shown in solo exhibitions at Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver; Mercer Union, Toronto; and group exhibitions at Musée d'Art Contemporain, Montreal; Presentation House Gallery, North Vancouver; Vancouver Art Gallery; Artspeak, Vancouver; Western Front, Vancouver; and Esker Foundation, Calgary. Stewart holds a BFA from Emily Carr University of Art and Design and an MFA from the Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts at Bard College in New York. She is a member of the Upper Nicola Band of the Okanagan Nation, and lives and works in Vancouver.
Curated by Melanie O'Brian and supported by Canada Council for the Arts.