I am a Toronto based artist and cultural advocate. I was commissioned to create and install works significant to the themes of water, Crawford Lake, and reconciliation in light of Canada 150. On The Water is the title of my current installation at Crawford Lake.
A Small or Spotted Turtle Clan Member and seated Tradition Keeper for the Wyandot of Anderdon Nation with a life long arts practice, I chose to create works for Crawford Lake that emphasize the traditional Indigenous paradigms and a view of the lake as a portal between this world and the spirit world.
Installing art in the trees (and in the Deer Clan Longhouse) was a way to ‘suspend time’ metaphorically; the digital collages are translucent and layered with meaning, blood-memory and implied symbolism – the circled embroidery pieces are held in midnight black hoops, within transparent boundaries and speak to experiential awareness around threads of time and continuity, merged cultural awareness and again, Ancestral memory.
The forest works are hung at intervals along the trail to the lake and explore thoughts about time, and reflection, in conversation with the natural world. The Clan system, structure, tool making, first technologies, the Spirit World; and the main subject, water are addressed in small acts of Thanksgiving along the trail – each with an offering of red ochre under them. The Longhouse works are placed at intervals along the inner boundaries of the main Deer Clan Longhouse space, set as small ceremonies, held down, in this world by transparent plexi – glass containers. Experiencing the works in situ, we walk together along the forest trail and into the Longhouse Gallery, reminding us of the power of place, and ceremony and their inherent meaning, in one’s lifeways.
Accompanying the forest trail installation of thirteen large digital collages on plexi-glass, the twelve embroidered assemblages installed in the Deer Clan Longhouse address explorations around the ways in which we are connected to, and a part of nature. “MotherTree”, a red tree comprised of what might be veins and arteries sitting on a bed of dyed red Moose hair, “Ceremony” an embroidered conch shell, whose likeness may have been used to gather people, sitting on a bed of sacred red ochre. “On the Water, Stars” a very subtle piece of embroidery depicting a night lake – with stars and a full moon; the lake fractured by various reflections as time may affect memory.
The black matte embroidery hoop sits on a stand within a pile of fine wood ash, taken from ceremony, with small shards of mica. “Rebirth” shows a living cell dividing in two, amid a sunrise blaze, an umbilicus tied to the hoop leads the eye to a Medicine Bag with a red Small or Spotted Turtle painted on it, sitting on a bed of Porcupine Quills. There are others, equally precious moments – which invoke re-cognition…a re-membering through ceremony and survival, through seeds, or trade on icy woodland streams, a Turtle Shell on a bed of sacred tobacco, next to the Dipper drawn in fine silver thread held within the four directions…but in Wyandot colours of red and black. An Owl filled with Orenda, next to a journeying canoe, a vehicle of watery and celestial transport. I believe we partake in these small ceremonies through viewing them. We may in fact, not be held static in time while viewing these works.
On The Water is a series of multi media works that explore thought and time’s imprint, as layers of image on transparencies, sounds and songs of water and threads of floss in linen. We make our beginnings in water, ride within it through the cycles of life and reconnect with it in death by merging with natural world; lakes, vernal pools and antler shaped rivers and streams as the Mother cycles the blood/water back into us again. Clan and clay speak the same language. Drum and song; rise and fall. Owls hoot – water trickles over moss. From the stars we come and the stars guide us home…Lichens bloom. Twelve hoops, twelve small ceremonies – thirteen Moons, thirteen dreams suspended in the trees.
The piece is enhanced by a sound piece, MoonWater Song which I wrote in Wyandot in collaboration with Dr. Craig Kopris, world renowned Iroquoian languages specialist. It contains the sounds of hooting Owls, and other woodland song, with an ambient beat free melodic line and the following lyrics in Wyandot and English. You can hear the song when you click here.
MoonWater Song ~
aʔyatráʔskwah ~ (I dream)
sawatę:ⁿdišrihšęʔ ~ (The moon becomes complete -full)
aʔyeyę́ʔ aʔwažaʔtihša: ~ (I see, she looks for me)
ǫmahšutáʔah yaáʔkwahstih ~ (Grandmother Moon – She is beautiful!)
yǫtarawáhstih (good lake) ~
imęnǫ́:tęʔ (the waters – they have life)
aʔyarǫ́h awáteʔyęʔáhaʔ yayunǫrǫhkwanyǫh ~ (I hear my siblings thank them)
iyátǫʔ yǫtarawáhstih ~ (I say beautiful waters!)
uⁿdatręⁿdút awáteʔyęʔáhaʔ ~ (they are standing songs up, we are siblings (meaning the women nature and the speaker are all related)
yǫtarawáhstih ~ (the waters – lake – beautiful)
ǫmahšutáʔah yaákwahstih ~ (beautiful Grandmother Moon)
yatuyęh yaⁿgwęʔnyahkwih. (it is so/certain, by way of the blood)
ⁿdutahsehtih kwaaʔtayǫh (that which is hidden inside our bodies)
aʔyatéʔskuh (I go into the water)
Catherine has shared some of her inner workings with us, sifted through a deep – rooted cultural awakening to access these deeper understandings. What she may be re-membering in this world, she feels has been known through her Ancestors, for millennia.
On the Water runs until December 9, 2017 and may be exhibited in various locations in Ontario in the next year or two. Catherine would like to thank Conservation Halton and Canada 150 for their support in the mounting of this exhibit. You can visit Catherine’s website when you click here.
We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada. Nous reconnaissons l’appui financier du gouvernement du Canada.
Last modified: March 8, 2018