Niitsítapi, Dené artist challenges colonial representations through powerful portraiture
by Emily Woo
Niitsítapi and Dené artist Lauren Crazybull, a Master of Fine Arts student at SFU’s School of Contemporary Arts, is a 2022 recipient of the Indigenous Graduate Entrance Scholarship. Supervised by Judy Radul, Crazybull’s powerful oil paintings challenge colonial representations and focus on Indigenous presence in visual culture.
In her work, Crazybull interrogates how Indigenous identities have been historically represented and understood through visual culture. Working primarily in portraiture, a long-standing genre that is often embedded with an imbalance of power between the artist/viewer and sitter, Crazybull seeks to examine the relationship between herself as an artist and the individuals she paints.
Through this ongoing work, Lauren uses her portraits to assert her own humanity, and advocate, in diverse and subtle ways, for the innate intellectual, spiritual, creative, and political fortitude of Indigenous peoples.
After the Master of Fine Arts program, Crazybull will continue her studio practice and hopes to have a greater conceptual framework around her ideas. Crazybull expresses the impact the program has had on her practice. “Feedback from my peers and faculty has been a central part of growth as an artist and the coursework helped me gain a better understanding of art in many disciplines,” explains Crazybull.
“I am so grateful for the scholarship,” says Crazybull, “It is helping me focus on my studies and it allows me to spend more time in the studio creating work. Being able to focus on coursework and art production is invaluable.”