Ann Beam and Carl Beam, Spaces for Reading. Installation view at SFU Gallery, 2019. Photo: Blaine Campbell. 

Ann Beam and Carl Beam: Spaces for Reading

January 15 - June 20, 2019
SFU Gallery

Spaces for Reading brings together works by Ann Beam and Carl Beam, two artists that question the construction of history and knowledge through systems of classification and representation with post-colonial, feminist and ecological lenses. The works are from two series held in the SFU Art Collection and demonstrate the ways in which these artists informed one another: in their shared life together, through artistic methodologies and with subjects that critique structures of power and ideas of progress while underpinning notions of time and space.

Ann Beam's mixed media works focus on cultural histories of women's labour in building homes, in motherhood, cooking and teaching. Her own subject position alternates between looking out and homing in on both the orbital and terrestrial with a spatial perspective that questions cosmology and ways in which gender roles have been defined. Earth images have been prominent in her work since the late 1990s, as have images of women, often as builders and in relation to the natural world around them. Her works on paper employ many of the same techniques as her late husband Carl Beam's: photo transfer, collage, watercolour, and handwritten text.

Carl Beam's complex indexical system enables narratives to emerge that "explore the space between Indigenous and other cultural views of our place within the universe-cosmos."[1] The collage and photo-transfer techniques he often uses allow him to visually bring together subjects and events from different historical moments that he infuses with political commentary, often aided with handwritten texts. His contemporary art-making strategies serve and empower his engagement with the struggle of Indigenous people in the late 20th century. Influenced by Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg for their collaging of images from popular culture and expressive handling of paint and printing, and Andy Warhol for his use of photo-silkscreen processes, his work sits within a history of western art discourse and production, resisting a singular reading as Indigenous.[2]

Within the exhibition, the gallery will host a reading room with texts selected in response to Ann Beam and Carl Beam's work by poet Mackenzie Ground and by artist Sandra Semchuk in collaboration with writer Richard Hill. Like the works that surround it, the space for reading is anachronistic, challenging a linear historical perspective and dominant research methods. Reading lists will be available to take away.

Ann Beam (b. 1944) works across media and has a BFA from State University of New York, Buffalo. Her work has been exhibited across Canada and the US. She manages the Neon Raven Art Gallery on Manitoulin Island, Ontario which features works by her late husband, artist Carl Beam and daughter Anong Migwans Beam, as well as her own work.

Carl Beam (1943-2005) was born in M'Chigeeng (West Bay) on Manitoulin Island, Ontario. He studied at Kootenay School of Art University of Victoria and University of Alberta for his MFA. His work has been the subject of numerous Canadian exhibitions, including a solo exhibition organized by the National Gallery of Canada in 2010 that toured across the country.

Mackenzie Ground is a writer from Enoch Cree Nation and Edmonton, Alberta. She is currently a PhD student in the Department of English at Simon Fraser University. Her writing has appeared in Glass Buffalo and The Capilano Review. 

Richard Hill is Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Studies at Emily Carr University of Art and Design. His column Close Readings, featuring extended reviews of contemporary Indigenous art, ran in Fuse and C Magazine. He also has an irregular column at He is currently on the editorial board of the journal Third Text.

Sandra Semchuk (b. 1948) is an artist based in Vancouver whose work is focused on photography and video. She taught at Emily Carr University of Art and Design. Her work has been widely exhibited across Canada and the US. For 15 years she worked in collaboration with her late husband James Nicholas, a Rock Cree actor and orator, looking at Indigenous and non-Indigenous identity, and thinking about autobiography and the familial.

Curated by Karina Irvine and Melanie O'Brian.

Supported by a partnership with the SFU Library and funding support from Canada Council for the Arts and British Columbia Arts Council.

[1] Greg A. Hill, "Carl Beam: The Artists and Some of His Concerns," Carl Beam: The Poetics of Being (Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada, 2011), 13.

[2] Hill uses the thinking of Gerald Viznor to observe that "Beam was Postindian because he refused to present himself or his thinking as "Indian"." ,13.


Spaces for Reading: Mackenzie Ground Reading Group 
Wednesday, February 6, 12:30 - 1:30pm
Saturday, March 23, 1 - 2PM
SFU Gallery

Spaces for Reading: Late Hours and Starry Nights
Friday, March 1, 6 - 9pm
SFU Gallery and Trottier Observatory

Fabricating Meaning: Dr. Eldon Yellowhorn and Dr. J. Steven Dodge in Conversation
Thursday, April 18, 1 - 2:30pm
SFU Gallery