Shelby Lisk is an emerging Ottawa-based artist, born and raised in Belleville, close to the Tyendinaga Mohawk Nation. In her artwork she explores her socially constructed identity by investigating gender roles and relationship dynamics. As well as her background as a Haudenosaunee and Canadian woman and what it means to straddle the line between these identities.
She has investigated these roles through her imagery and the incorporation of text as a driving force for the image. Her main mediums consist of photography and video. She would like her viewers to question their own social roles when looking at her work and experience a sense of her perspective through the visual aspects. Her work can be interpreted as an intersectional feminist approach to an investigation of personal identity.
Shelby has exhibited work in Belleville, Ottawa, Toronto and has an upcoming show in Chicago. She has also curated exhibitions in Ottawa and is currently working as the Director for Gallery 115 at the University of Ottawa and the gallery assistant at Central Art Garage in Centretown. She will be graduating this spring with a Bachelor of Fine Arts and minor in Women’s Studies and hopes to later pursue graduate school.
In her current work she has begun to incorporate textiles and knitting to reference the idea of story telling and the passing down of knowledge from a matrilineal line. She is interested in exploring feminine characteristics and practices and their position as subordinate to male practices. As she has done in the past, she is using these ideas to emphasize the importance of non-institutionalized knowledge that is passed in ways such as personal stories, traditions, and craft.
Artist Statement for Nuit Blanche Ottawa+Gatineau 2014
The installation by six artists (#5 will blow your mind!) is an experiment in which we lose control of our own works in the process of making them, just like on the internet, grafting realities through virtual space, and transcending…
White-skinned and New Jersey-born, I grew up with the question “How Indian are you?” It’s one I refuse to answer
All of my feelings. All of them.
“‘How much Indian are you?’, however well-intentioned, implies that alive within me is only a tiny piece of the free, noble Indian that passed on long ago, a remnant from which I am far removed. The questions, individually, are borne from a place of curiosity, but the questions have embedded in a time when blood quantum was used to rob indigenous peoples of rights and, ultimately, lead to our being defined out of existence
Native people are dismissed as less legitimate if they are of mixed ancestry, if they are phenotypically inconsistent with stereotypes, or if they fail to meet other flimsy social criteria. I cringe every time I hear “part Indian,” feeling my arm sliced off at the shoulder. When I refuse to answer, “How much Indian are you?” I am reserving the right to keep myself whole. When I say that my blood quantum is personal and not a topic I discuss with strangers, it is not because I am ashamed. It’s not you, and it’s not me—it’s three hundred years of statistical genocide, and I don’t have to participate. Nobody puts this Indian in the cupboard.”
Sage represents the emotional quadrant on the medicine wheel. Sage is in the West. As we move into the adult stage of our lives, we always exit through the West and sage assists in that journey. The smell of sage is intended to attract the spirits’ attention. Black is the colour, fall is the season and adulthood is the stage of life. Sage is used to prepare us for ceremonies and teachings. Because it is more medicinal and stronger than sweetgrass, sage is used more often in ceremonies. Sage is used for releasing what is troubling the mind and for removing negative energy. It is also used for cleansing homes and sacred bundles.