Keilah Lukenbill-Williams : Re-trace

Fri. August 28th 2015 - Fri. September 11th 2015
@  Odeon Alley
Taking inspiration from my Coast Salish heritage and from western art in the form of abstract expressionism, I wanted to combine Coast Salish design and the motif of the ovoid with more fluid, experimental and painterly techniques to create a piece that makes reference to landscape, both inner and outer, and place, past and present, real and remembered. With this juxtaposition of textures, shapes and symbols I wanted also to allude to history, memory, identity both cultural and personal and to notions of connection and disconnection.
Collectively as people living on Turtle Island (North America) we live in a world of multiple overlapping geographies, where some have displaced, erased and silenced others, often violently. As Indigenous people, our story is imbedded within the landscape that our ancestors have inhabited for thousands of years despite it’s radical transformation into modern urban space. With the arrival of settlers our people and ancestors did not have a choice or say in the impact the subsequent colonization and settlement would have on their lives and today we face many similar challenges in fighting for our human rights. We continue to struggle to make space for ourselves, to have our histories and stories heard and to be able to tell them ourselves
As Urban Indigenous people we often find ourselves with the sense of being strangers within our homeland, struggling to make sense of the pieces of our fragmented and dislocated selves, to see ourselves within the greater story of the colonial past and present, and to maintain and re-establish a connection to ourselves, our families, and our culture.
To me art-making and painting is a way of attempting to express my own story as an Urban Indigenous person of mixed ancestry. It is a way for me to reconnect to my heritage and the history of my ancestors through using and exploring traditional art forms and a means for me to re-trace or re-draw my own definitions of who I am.
Collectively, I think that art-making can be a way for us to tell our stories, our truth’s, and to have choice in how we assert and identify ourselves, especially in the face of oppressive and damaging stereotypes. It can be a way for us not only to challenge these and other dominant ideologies and narratives, but also to present alternative viewpoints to generate dialogue and the awareness and understanding around Indigenous experience that is lacking and sorely needed in the consciousness of Canadian society and much of our world today.

Keilah identifies as a First Nation’s interdisciplinary artist of mixed ancestry with predominantly Nuu-cha-nulth and Quw’utsun ancestry on her mother’s side and German and Welsh on her father’s. She was born and raised in Quw’utsun territory in the city of Duncan. She has since relocated to Lekwungen territory where in addition to working to develop and herself as a visual artist she has had the honour to implement her skills in various youth and community based arts projects geared towards exploring and expressing First Nation’s issues and politics and celebrating culture and community.
One such project is the Unity Wall Mural located at Ogden Point along the Ogden Point Breakwater in what is now known as James Bay. Designed by Songhees and Esquimalt First Nation’s Artists Butch Dick and Darlene Gait and painted by various Indigenous youth from different nations across Turtle Island (North America) the mural focuses on honoring and expressing Lekwungen culture, exploring the Lekwungen peoples deep connection to their land.
Keilah so far has received formal arts training at Camosun College where she took courses in Indigenous studies and received her Visual Arts diploma. She is deeply thankful to have been able to engage also with a wealth of other mentors, artists and non-institutional sources of learning that have helped to shape her creativity and identity as an artist as well.
She is currently a participant in Open Space Gallery’s IYAP (Indigenous Youth Mentorship Program) that gives Indigenous emerging artists the opportunity to mentor with established Indigenous artists from across a spectrum of diverse practices. She hopes that the experience will serve as another valuable stepping stone in her development as an visual artist, giving her new skills and tools for expression that she can carry with her to her next step in her arts education at Emily Carr University this coming spring.
Presented by: The Ministry of Casual Living
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