Marianne Nicolson

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Marianne Nicolson
Awi'nagwiskasu: Real Land
Curated by Jesse Birch and Liz Park
April 21 - July 2
Join us for the opening reception, Thursday, April 20 at 7 pm
Artist Talk with Marianne Nicolson, Saturday, April 22 at 2 pm
Shaw Auditorium, Vancouver Island Conference Centre
101 Gordon St, Nanaimo

Nanaimo Art Gallery is pleased to present a solo exhibition by Marianne Nicolson, a Victoria BC based artist of Scottish and Dzawada̱'enux̱w First Nations descent. The Dzawada'enuxw People are a member tribe of the Kwakwaka'wakw Nations of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Nicolson's work first came to prominence in 1998 when she scaled a cliff face near her ancestral village Gwa'yi to paint a 11.5 meter high by 8.5 meter wide pictographic crest symbol that shows the origin story of her people. This was the first petrograph in the region in more than sixty years, and marks the continued vitality of the Dzawada'enuxw. Operating as a potent expression of land rights and community connections, this work anchors the exhibition Awi'nagwiskasu: Real Land.

This exhibition showcases Nicolson's creative scope through paintings, light-installations, and video. Many of the works invite visitors to share the artist's pressing concerns about the waters that surround and course through land, and serve as a gauge for the health of coastal communities. Rivers, inlets, harbours, and tides are points of reference throughout the exhibition. Awi'nagwiskasu: Real Land was developed in dialogue with Nanaimo, a harbour city, and hub of resource extraction and distribution on Vancouver Island. Nicolson will also create a new public artwork on the exterior of Nanaimo Art Gallery that will be revealed at the end of the exhibition.

To highlight Nicolson's interrelated practices as a linguist, anthropologist, and a visual artist, a new risograph print edition that compiles titles of Nicolson's works from 1998-2016 in both English and Kwak'wala will be produced on the occasion of the exhibition.

Image: Marianne Nicolson, cliff painting in progress, Kingcome Inlet, 1998

Artist Talk with Marianne Nicolson

Saturday, April 22, 2:00 PM, Shaw Auditorium, Vancouver Island Conference Centre, 101 Gordon St
Marianne Nicolson (‘Tayagila’ogwa) is an artist of Scottish and Dzawada̱’enux̱w First Nations descent. The Dzwada̱’enux̱w People are a member tribe of the Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw Nations of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Her training encompasses both traditional Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw forms and culture and Western European based art practice. She has completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Emily Carr University of Art and Design (1996), a Masters in Fine Arts (1999), a Masters in Linguistics and Anthropology (2005) and a PhD in Linguistics, Anthropology and Art History (2013) at the University of Victoria. She has exhibited her artwork locally, nationally and internationally as a painter, photographer and installation artist, has written and published numerous essays and articles, and has participated in multiple speaking engagements. Her practice engages with issues of Aboriginal histories and politics arising from a passionate involvement in cultural revitalization and sustainability.


Marianne Nicolson Public Artwork Launch 

June 25, 12 pm
60 Wharf St (at the rear of the Gallery)
Please join us on Sunday, June 25 at noon to celebrate the launch of a new public artwork on the exterior of Nanaimo Art Gallery by Marianne Nicolson, an artist of Scottish and Dzawada̱'enux̱w First Nations descent. Commissioned by the Gallery, Nicolson’s artwork responds to this site, while expanding on themes in her solo exhibition Awi’nagwiskasu: Real Land, on at the Gallery until July 2.
Many works in the exhibition Awi’nagwiskasu: Real Land,  refer directly to the ocean and the rivers of Nicolson’s traditional territory in Kingcome Inlet BC, where marine life serves as a gauge for the health of the place and the community. These concerns are also highly relevant in Nanaimo, a Harbour City that relies on the resources of the Salish Sea, and is located on the traditional territory of the Snuneymuxw Nation.
Nicolson has created many powerful site-specific public artworks in British Columbia, including The Rivers Monument (2015), a massive glass and light sculpture installed at the Vancouver International Airport and The House of the Ghosts (2008) a light projection and banner work that was installed on the front of the Vancouver Art Gallery.  She chose Nanaimo Art Gallery's rear façade at 60 Wharf Street as the site of her new work: a large colorful billboard made in response to this location. 
The Gallery’s lot backed onto a tidal inlet until 1964, when it was filled in for industrial and commercial uses. Nicolson understands the reconfiguration of Nanaimo’s waterfront as part of a long history of the exploitation of environments and resources for the sake for profit. In her artwork she utilises early twentieth century pictographs from her community in Kingcome Inlet that show the influx of settlement and resource extraction on Dzawada̱'enux̱w traditional territory.  By paralleling these two sites and histories, Nicolson links early twentieth century state appropriation of Indigenous lands to the ongoing and widespread exploitation of land and water resources. 
This public artwork is being launched on the 150th anniversary of confederation, at a time when communities and institutions, including Nanaimo Art Gallery, are participating in conversations about the process of reconciliation. Nicolson’s work celebrates the re-emergence of Indigenous people’s voices, while articulating that there can be no true reconciliation between Indigenous and settler societies without an acknowledgement of Indigenous peoples’ displacement from their lands.
This artwork is also presented as a part of Nanaimo Art Gallery's celebration of our 40th anniversary in 2017. All year, through exhibitions, special projects, education programs and events, we explore the question What does it mean to live on an Island? 
Join us at  60 Wharf Street on Sunday, June 25 at noon to celebrate the launch of this exciting new artwork. Nicolson will be in attendance to talk about the artwork and we will share snacks and refreshments.  
This public artwork is made possible by the Community Fund for Canada’s 150th, a collaboration between Nanaimo Foundation, the Government of Canada, and extraordinary leaders from coast to coast.


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