New exhibit at The Thames Art Gallery explores Indigenous history and identity through lunar calendar

Thames Art Gallery, Chatham

The Thames Art Gallery is presenting an upcoming exhibition, Patrick DeCoste: 13 Moons and a Canoe, with an opening reception on Friday, March 23rd, from 7 – 9 p.m. It will feature recent and new interdisciplinary work by Decoste, a Métis artist who lives and works between Toronto and Georgian Bay. Organized and curated by the John B. Aird Gallery director Carla Garnet, the exhibition and the dialogue it fosters will be offered in the spirit of advancing ongoing conversations about Canadian identity, and how together we might take responsibility for our past, present, and future.

DeCoste’s installation pairs a canoe, retrofitted with a mast and sail, with a circular room of thirteen canvas walls – each painted with a large, colourful moon strung across poles hewn from forest trees. One of the canvas moons hangs loosely like a curtain, serving as the entrance into the inner room. This room-within-a-room evokes a blend of environmental, cultural, and personal influences. It is, on the one hand, a monument to the Indigenous lunar calendar, and, on the other hand, a kind of family portrait for the artist; the twelve walls represent DeCoste and each of his eleven siblings, and the thirteenth wall/doorway, a white moon, represents the baby who did not survive, the thirteenth child. The modified canoe, which sits outside the room, conjures up the genesis of the Métis people in seventeenth-century Nova Scotia, where DeCoste’s family has its roots – a potent symbol of First Contact between Europeans and Indigenous peoples. The exhibition also includes a series of acrylic paintings on polar bear, spirit bear, and other animal skins, along with paintings and studio objects that reflect the artist’s journey toward understanding. The work is not so much a critique of colonialism as an attempt to grapple with the forces of history, culture, family, and identity.

The educational programming offered during the run of 13 Moons and a Canoe will include a conversation between senior Anishinaabe artist/educator Bonnie Devine and DeCoste on Thursday, April 26th, from 7 – 9 p.m.  A major artist in her own right, Devine is also the Founding Chair of OCAD University’s Indigenous Visual Culture program, and has provided a contextual essay on DeCoste’s work through his engagement with narratives of Indigenous identity.

Patrick Decoste: 13 Moons and a Canoe will be on view from March 23rd at the Thames Art Gallery until May 13th. The artist will be in attendance during the public opening reception on Friday, March 23rd from 7 – 9 p.m. The Thames Art Gallery is located at 75 William Street North, Chatham, and is open Wednesday to Friday 1 – 7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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