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Category Archive for: Awareness Series

OPENING: “Awareness Series” at Art Gallery of Hamilton

Barry Pottle’s Awareness Series, a suite of contemporary Inuit photographs recently acquired to the AGH permanent collection, considers two contrasting depictions of Inuit identity. Pottle probes the fraught history of the Eskimo Identification Tag System, which saw Canadian federal authorities issue tag numbers and corresponding identification discs to all Inuit in the Western and Eastern Arctic from the 1940s to 1970s. The 19 photograph series contrasts images of the numbered discs, and portraits of individuals (all friends, community members, and colleagues of the artist) who were, at one time, enrolled in the disc system. While these individuals may have varying opinions regarding this former government initiative, their shared experience brings awareness to a moment in recent history not commonly known or discussed in context of greater Canadian culture.

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FOR THE ARCHIVE: The Globe & Mail covers the “Awareness Series” at Feheley Fine Arts

Photography remains an underdeveloped art form among the Canadian Inuit, at least in comparison to stone-carving, drawing and printmaking. Certainly Inuit artists have used photographs as source images for, say, their drawings. But as a medium in and of itself, it has attracted far fewer professional practitioners, Cape Dorset’s Jimmy Manning being perhaps the most salient example.

It’s therefore something of a salutary surprise to see Ottawa-based Barry Pottle’s Awareness Series at Toronto’s Feheley Fine Arts, one of the country’s longest-running purveyors of fine Inuit art. Not only is the series an exhibition of colour photographs, 19 in total, the ensemble has a decidedly conceptual/historical underpinning, rather than being a potpourri of depictions of the Arctic landscape and contemporary Inuit culture.

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FOR THE ARCHIVE: Awareness Series at Feheley Fine Arts Toronto

Barry Pottle, from Nunatsiavut but now living in Ottawa, gave an artist talk during the opening. He offered a few words on his experience speaking to the Inuit whose tags and faces he photographed (see YouTube link below). He also discussed his experience in speaking with fellow Inuit about these tags, finding both positive and negative reaction.  The exhibition, was originally part of the travelling exhibition entitled ‘Decolonize Me’ is both informative and provocative.

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