Making a splash

At Pelican Falls features artwork by Rebecca Belmore.

The work of Rebecca Belmore is featured in At Pelican Falls, an exhibit at Thunder Bay Art Gallery that opened on Jan. 12 and runs through March 11.

In early July of last year, Scott Benesiinaabandan, Florene Belmore and Rebecca Belmore spent a week together in Sioux Lookout. A photo from the Ontario Archives taken by John Macfie in 1955 drew the artists to the site. In the photograph, taken before the artists were born, seven boys from Pelican Falls residential school in denim coveralls watch a man fishing on the lake. They are facing away from the camera.

At Pelican Falls focuses on experiential connection and archival intimacy within specific places. All three artists’ extended families are connected to this place and history, and thus the image speaks to their own stories.

Starting with the picture, they visited the old Pelican Falls residential school grounds, and fished at the falls. While they couldn’t locate the exact rock in the archival photograph, they quietly walked the grounds where the old school once stood.

The resulting works articulate the visit and its significance to each artist in dialogue with one another, the photograph and the site. Rebecca Belmore is grateful to John Macfie (photographer), Florene Belmore (writer), Scott Benesiinaabandan (videographer), and Latrell Whiskeyjack (performer).

This exhibition contains photographs taken by John Macfie located in the Archives of Ontario as well as his personal collection. At Pelican Falls features two pieces of writing — a creative response from Florene Belmore and a critical examination of the work by Jessica Jacobson-Konefall.

A member of Lac Seul First Nation, Rebecca Belmore is an internationally recognized multidisciplinary artist. Rooted in the political and social realities of Indigenous communities, Belmore’s works make evocative connections among bodies, land and language.

Belmore was a recipient of the Gershon Iskowitz Prize in 2016 for her outstanding contribution to visual arts in Canada, Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts in 2013, the Hnatyshyn Foundation Visual Arts Award in 2009, and an Honorary Doctorate from the Ontario College of Art and Design University in 2005.

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