CHIEF LADY BIRD at VIRTUE – an all female creative exhibit

Meet Nancy King (Chief Lady Bird).
A passionate mixed media artist with a message. Nancy shares her experiences and feminism from a First Nations’ woman’s perspective. Refreshing and intriguing, Nancy signs all her work with her Anishinaabe name, Ogimaakwebnes, which means Chief Lady Bird. Chief Lady Bird will be showing her work at VIRTUE – a female creative exhibit on September 13 at Studio 1176.
Take the time to read through her stories below.
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 What inspires you to create?

“I am inspired to create images that address identity politics.

As an Anishinaabe woman, I have deep ties to the traditional territories where I grew up (Rama First Nation and Moose Deer Point First Nation). I lived on the reserve for the first eighteen years of my life and then in 2011 I moved to Toronto to pursue an education and career in the arts. Living in an urban space has urged me to explore and understand my Anishinaabe identity.
In my final year at OCAD, I titled my thesis “Kwezens Kendaaso Kinowaabandang Kina Gegoo” which means “She Learns From Observing Everything.” This saying has become my mantra when thinking about the kind of work that I make. I often respond to our complex history and identities as Indigenous peoples and build a bridge between the past and present in order to understand my place among this narrative as well as consider our future generations. Through my paintings I familiarize myself with traditional stories and metaphysical doctrines by juxtaposing digital processes with spray paint, woodlands art motifs and traditional craft processes to take control of my identity and defy and re-define ideas of “authentic” Indigenous art. I often use beadwork as symbols and glyphs, to represent fragments of a language that I don’t have.”
How do you think creative women are perceived in the industry?
“It’s hard to generalize how women are perceived in the industry.

From my perspective as an Indigenous woman artist, my experiences differ from women with other backgrounds and experiences.

That being said, as an Indigenous woman artist, the hardest audience to reach would be white males. My final critique at OCAD was particularly interesting because every person critiquing my work was a white male. At first I was intimidated because they can’t possibly understand my work or the world from my perspective but as the critique went on we were able to have a healthy discussion about WHO my work is for. And when I consider the audience that I want to view and understand my work, it encompasses everyone. Truth and reconciliation is embedded in a lot of Indigenous work and it is so important to be able to open up a dialogue with EVERYONE to discuss various issues.

However based on personal experience I can say that I generally do feel as though women aren’t taken quite as seriously as their male counterparts.

For example, I was once looking at a male artist’s work in Orillia and told him that I studied at OCAD. He responded with “The whole art scene went to shit as soon as OCAD started allowing women to study there. Now the whole industry is full of women and its embarrassing!” And a more recent example would be when I was working with my art collective (three females, two males) to produce a mural at the Pan Am Aboriginal Pavilion; a man approached Aura and I to inquire about the mural. Upon telling him that we were contributing artists he exclaimed in disbelief that he couldn’t believe it was done by two women. I guess he approached the mural with pre-conceived notions about the type of demographic that typically works with spray paint on a large scale.”
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How do you perceive feminism?
“I identify as a feminist. However,

My feminist ideals operate under Indigenous feminism, which seeks equality for Indigenous people and was born from the idea that Western feminism cannot be applied equally to all women without homogenizing women’s diverse experiences.

Indigenous feminism advocates for equality between men and women but also focusses on ideas of decolonization. I always try to bring up this side of feminism because with the internet and our ability to share ideas quickly and widely, stuff gets diluted and there is an over-saturation of concepts and images that become the basis for feminism (such as Tumblr images of white women with hairy armpits- which are awesome and beautiful, but only represent a fraction of the feminist movement.) I am really excited about the notion of Indigenous feminism because it both advocates for equality with men, which parallels Western feminism, but also addresses the consequences of colonization and systemic oppression.

I urge everyone to research this side of feminism and educate yourselves, and become a voice within our truth and reconciliation dialogues.”

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Where do you wish to take your art in the future?

“The future holds a lot for me and my art collective. That’s all I have to say for now.”

Her work can be found at www.chiefladybirdart.tumblr.com as well as at @chiefladybird on Instagram and under the hashtag #chiefladybirdart

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