D. Ahsén:nase Douglas – Not Your Mother’s Woodland Style Art

D. Ahsén:nase originally wrote the following text in January of 2020. This was before we were all made painfully aware of Covid-19 and the impact it would have on our lives. Four months of self-isolation, the empty streets and deaths have changed the way a lot of us currently view the world and our place in it.

For me as a Native person, it enforces in my mind what I have been taught. We as humans are part of a web, a web that touches everything animate and inanimate. As we transverse this web the vibrations we make will come back to us amplified whether we believe this or not. 

I have been taught that we are not separate from Mother Earth, that we are a part of her and that we must live within her rhythms.

Some are coming to this realization, and for that I am grateful.

As I sit here and write this short introduction to words that I had spoken many months before, I can’t help but marvel at the innocence of what in a few short weeks would come.

Initially scheduled for the spring of 2020, the original intent of the exhibition now seems stale in my mind. So you may see a number of new paintings subtly influenced by the events of Covid-19 that will be painted between now and 2021.

 

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Our Elders tell us that our feet have walked upon the back of Turtle Island for time immemorial. Our resiliency has been proven time and time again, we have faced genocide both physical and cultural, betrayal at the hands of our allies, residential schools, and the murder of our women and girls. Despite this... We Are Still Here! – Ahsén:nase

 

 

I am an “Urban Indian”; instead of working the trap-line, I set mouse traps.

 

I am Mohawk; although I probably shouldn’t mention that, because as I write this many of my brothers and sisters are blockading the railroad in support of the Hereditary Chiefs of Wet'suwet'en First Nation.

 

I am the first generation in my family not to be forced into a residential school, yet I have come to believe that the after effects still haunt me to a small degree.

 

I am also a figurative painter during a time when such things are considered quaint and eccentric at best, or a waste of time at worst.

 

While you will not see any Woodland Style inspired art among my works, I will admit that I do favour some pieces by other artists. But I will also elaborate that I consider this style a commercially imposed stereotype that forces me to find my own path away from what is typically considered “Indigenous Art”.

 

All these things affect the art that I create.  As I tell my students, art is the result of a person’s culture, experiences and thoughts at the time. There is no escaping this truth. Artists do indeed lead a lonely life, with only the voices of their echoing demons to keep them company.

 

 

We Are Still Here! is a small collection of portraits and characterizations of modern Onkwehon:we (the Original People) of Turtle Island.

 

The idea came to me almost 8 years ago while visiting a local grade 5 classroom. After my scheduled visit, I soon discovered through the wonder of a small girl, as she shared with her father the discovery that I wasn’t as extinct as the Dodo, or as rare as a Unicorn.

 

This girl was in a group of students I told stories to that day. After the visit, she must have been surprised by my existence, because upon meeting her father she exclaimed, “There’s a real live Indian, Daddy!”

 

It’s at that time that I realized the current school curriculum taught about Indigenous culture and its people from an historical viewpoint. And if I may add, a colonial Euro-centric viewpoint at that!

 

We were placed in the past with the dead Buffalo and the Dodo, our role at this grade level was at best, reduced to nominal greeters of approaching European settlers as they passed through the metaphorical Walmart doors of Turtle Island.

 

This exhibit comes from that realization, and is my small way of portraying modern Indigenous people, not in feathers and buckskins, but with skateboards and t-shirts, taken out of the history books and placed squarely at the foot of your local railroad crossing.

 

I’ll give you fair warning however, my paintings have been described as “lively, nuanced and full of character”. They reflect my quirky sense of humor and love of irony, and may seem superficial upon first glance. But try to consider what you are seeing and how that relates to what you think you know about Indigenous people.

 

I hope that you see more.