Reconnecting with land and water

Katherine Boyer gets closer to her family’s way of life through art

Katherine Boyer’s work displayed in Gallery 1C03.

Supplied photo

Amongst the hustle and bustle through the first floor of Centennial Hall, Gallery 1C03 will host Katherine Boyer’s installation, Water Meets Body.

Boyer is a Winnipeg-based Métis artist who works with video, sound, sculpture and textile to explore and experience the land on which her family used to reside, a valley that was flooded for the creation of a dam that provides power for Estevan, Sask.

“In the video, you see me swimming around and doing my best to get as close to the land as I can,” Boyer says. “I really wanted to form a show around that experience, about my body meeting water, hence the title. Each of the works in some way references water as a source of life, nourishment, sustenance and connectivity.”

Boyer says the installation also addresses and reconciles her family’s Catholicism.

“My great-grandparents, the individuals that lived on this land in the videos, were devout Catholics their whole lives, and they also attended residential schools,” she says. “So I have been trying to wrap my head around what I perceive as these irreconcilable things.”

Water Meets Body features two videos showing the land Boyer references. One video shows the flooded area, and the other shows the other end of the valley which is not submerged.

“The space is sort of divided the way the land was divided,” she says.

The installation is arranged in a way that the layout resembles a church with aisles and an altar, with the videos on either side and wall hangings arranged in an altar-like fashion, emphasizing and playing with the Catholic iconography.

“What I would want most for a viewer is that they have time to contemplate nature and where our reverences lay as well as who we choose to honour,” Boyer says.

Jennifer Gibson, the director and curator of Gallery 1C03, says the space sometimes acts as some peoples’ first encounter with an art gallery.

“The work that we show here is, on one hand, accessible, but it’s also maybe not what people expect when they think of art,” she says.

Gibson says the gallery encourages artists to build their installations around the layout of the space, which was the case for Water Meets Body.

Boyer’s “work is about Métis history, material, culture and very personal family narratives,” Gibson says. “The campus community can come in here and think about broad aspects of Métis history, but they can also apply their interaction with the work to their own memories and experiences with family.”

Boyer will lead several workshops throughout the weeks that her installation is featured at the gallery. One of the workshops will be on making Li Bangs, a Métis type of fried bread. This workshop is reserved for women, non-binary, Two-Spirit and queer folks.

“I think we are in a time where our cultural and social actions have a lot of weight and significance. I think that to be considerate of where your own family is coming from is one of the greatest services that you can do for your past and your future,” Boyer says.

Katherine Boyer will give an artist talk on March 19 at 10 a.m. in 3C01. For workshop registration, visit Gallery 1C03’s website.

Published in Volume 73, Number 20 of The Uniter (March 7, 2019)

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