Paved – Resistance is [Not] Futile

In 2011 I began series of exhibition projects that examined the viability of reaching the indigenous community outside of the gallery space. The first exhibition took place at Paved Arts in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The gallery is located in an area of the city that has a high and visible concentration of indigenous people. With this in mind I challenged myself to consider if my work is accessible to indigenous people coming in with no background in the visual arts and art history. The first step was not using frames for my work and using a graffiti-type font for the text.

The concept was based on the residential school experience and the process of forced assimilation. The title was inspired by the Star Trek character The Borg and what I hoped would be a community accessible title. This was also my first exhibition that had my artist response to my curatorial work on residential schools and the exhibition Where are the Children: Healing the Legacy of Residential Schools. Included in the exhibition was a duel portrait of a young boy named Thomas Moore, who was from a reserve near Saskatoon and who attended the Regina Industrial School in the early 1890s.

The night of the opening I renewed my portrait project and offered free portraits with local artist Adrian Stimson, who was also in one of my works. A new component was having a graffiti artist in Ottawa make a backdrop for the portraits. The backdrop was left on the wall and when I returned to Ottawa I processed the portraits and sent two copies back to Paved Arts; one print for each of the sitters and one print for the mural display.

Exhibition information on Paved Arts website
BlackFlash Interview with Jeff Thomas (September 16, 2011)