Shelley Niro

Celebrated multi-disciplinary contemporary artist Shelley Niro is noted for her photographs that challenge stereotypes of Indigenous women. Abnormally Aboriginal is a stunning case in point. This penetrating work contends with the legacy of colonial representations that objectify and marginalize individuals as "other." Presented in partnership with the Art Gallery of Hamilton exhibition Shelley Niro: 1779, curated by Alana Traficante, which shows at the AGH Oct 20, 2017-Mar 18, 2018.

Artist's Statement:

This work is about categories, slots of convenience, labels and names which makes it easy to place an individual and where one is readily recognized and dismissed.

While growing up I was not aware of being an aboriginal. We were Indians. As time has gone by other nouns were added. Indigenous, First Nations and Native. Aboriginal became the term in which we were discussed. Referred to as being Native, brought a certain exclusivity to the table. We had our own department in the government, Dept of Indian Affairs, now known as Dept of Aboriginal Affairs. News coverage of Aboriginals makes the mind find that place where the Native is conveniently placed.

The word Aboriginal still makes me shiver a little.  What is that? Strangeness, foreign, even to myself?  Like a science experiment, the test tube is looked at under a microscope and examined until all of the results are known and posted. Tested until there are no more surprises. 

In this context I used the format of the self-portrait to best describe my journey through life exploring where I fit in and what effect it has on my own contribution to the circumstances around me.

Shelley Niro (born 1954) is a Mohawk filmmaker and visual artist from New York and Ontario. She is most noted for her photographs using herself and female family members case in contemporary positions to challenge the stereotypes and clichés of Indigenous women. Niro is a member of the Six Nations Reserve, Turtle Clan, Bay of Quinte Mohawk.

Niro is a multi-disciplinary contemporary artist skilled in photography, painting, sculpting, bead work, multimedia, and independent film. While she is now considered one of the top artists in Canada, Niro has a long history of involvement in artist-run culture in Hamilton, including being a founding member of NIIPA (Native Indian/Inuit Photographer’s Association, founded in Hamilton in 1985).

In 2017, Niro was awarded both the Governor General’s Award for Visual and Media Arts and the Scotiabank Photography Award, two of Canada’s top contemporary art prizes.  

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