Maria Hupfield: East Wind Brings a New Day
December 5, 2015 – April 10, 2016
Growing up on the shores of Georgian Bay, artist Maria Hupfield knows from experience the landscape that served as one of the primary models for the Canadian Group of Seven—the same landscape which local artists of the Woodland school of painting also call home. In consideration of these two historical, regional expressions, East Wind Brings a New Day translates the windblown pine tree from Tom Thomson’s The West Wind and sets it alongside various elements reflecting Hupfield’s own Anishinaabe culture and connection to place—including the full-decked, double paddle canoe which she built under the mentorship of her father and master boat builder, John Hupfield.
Of a type utilized by her family today on Georgian Bay, Hupfield’s lightweight, lapstrake marine plywood canoe builds on the tradition of historical birchbark canoes. On its kayak deck, Hupfield hand painted a floral design in “bikini blue” boat paint to portray indigenous plants from her home territory. Hupfield’s canoe protrudes from the wall, traversing a video projection of a small waterfall on the Seguin River in Parry Sound as it moves towards a supergraphic rendering of water and sky, underwater panther and thunderers.
Painted in interior latex house paint using selections from Para Paint’s Group of Seven Collection, Hupfield’s graphic uses the white of the gallery wall to incorporate an interconnecting line throughout the painting—an inversion of the distinctive black line utilized by Woodland artists such as Norval Morrisseau. Hupfield combines the two painting styles to reclaim landscape painting on her own terms and acknowledge historical omissions. A hybrid of stories and traditions, East Wind Brings a New Day critiques the way modern landscape painting was used historically to further a national agenda, an agenda that sought to erase the history and culture of Indigenous people who were connected to the land.
Hupfield contextualizes the iconic Tom Thomson evergreen within a larger setting, extending the landscape of the original painting to include, on one side, a rendering of Regina’s own Albert Street bridge, and, on the other, an abstract bricolage of patterned paint and object. The geometric lines recall images found in Anishinaabe weaving and quillwork and assert Hupfield’s personal interpretation of modern art traditions of landscape painting and abstraction. The artist’s own silhouette stands out against the bright colours, making visible the absence implied by Group of Seven paintings.
The exhibition considers the exclusion of First Nations in national narratives, an exclusion often perpetuated by dominant accounts of Canadian art history. Hupfield gives equal presence to the Indigenous and European narratives of the natural and urban world. By creating a more inclusive and multi-layered representation of home, one that acknowledges people on the land and local Anishinaabe nations, she allows us to recognize historical inequalities and forced co-existence. In a refusal to disappear, Hupfield’s canoe and the painted edges of the boards jut from the wall and into the space, pushing against this history. Together they point towards the work that still needs to be done if we are to move forward.
— Michelle LaVallee, Associate Curator
Maria Hupfield is an interdisciplinary artist whose practice includes performance, object and image-making, and is grounded in a combination of Indigenous and Western art practices. Born in Parry Sound, Ontario, she currently lives in Brooklyn, New York. She is of Anishinaabe (Ojibway) heritage, and a member of Wasauksing First Nation, Ontario.
Image Credit: "East Wind Brings a New Day" installation at A Space Gallery, Toronto, 2006