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Contemporary Art Gallery

555 Nelson Street
Vancouver, Canada
Admission always free

Today's hours
12 pm - 6 pm
11 Oct 19until5 Jan 20

Olivia Whetung

Sugarbush Shrapnel

Alvin Balkind Gallery

An image detail of a wood veneer panel with a rendering of a hummingbird drinking nectar out of a flower. The rendering is composed of bead-embroidered and wood-burned lines.

Olivia Whetung, Stand (detail), 2019. Photo: SITE Photography

Beads have long held a significant place in the practice of Mississauga-Nishinaabe artist Olivia Whetung. Her work considers how knowledge is held and transferred through water, land and community, and enacts, in her words, “active native presence.” In Sugarbush Shrapnel, Whetung considers her own connections to the ecosystem of her home on Chemong Lake, Ontario, in an era of accelerating climate change and environmental destruction. What will be lost through climate change? How might we remember ecosystems after we have forever altered them? These questions are considered in Stand (2019), a new suite of large-scale works comprised of thin panels of wood veneer, bead-embroidered with wood-burned lines upon their surfaces. Through the delicate renderings, Whetung traces fragile relationships between plants, animals and humans. Resembling half-remembered scenes pulled from the fog of memory, Whetung’s images offer the barest edges of an ecosystem in the process of irrevocable change.

Curated by Kimberly Phillips with assistance from Julia Lamare

Sugarbush Shrapnel is generously supported by the Audain Foundation.


Olivia Whetung is a member of Curve Lake First Nation and a citizen of the Nishnaabeg Nation. Her work has been the focus of solo exhibitions at Gallery 44, Toronto (2018); Alternator Centre for Contemporary Art, Kelowna (2018); Artspace, Peterborough (2017); and 180 Projects, Sault Ste. Marie. She has contributed to two-person and group exhibitions at Queen’s University, Kingston (2019); Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas (2018-19); Textile Museum of Canada, Toronto (2018); Art Gallery of Mississauga (2018); Carleton University Art Gallery, Ottawa (2017); Access Gallery, Vancouver (2016); Western Front, Vancouver (2016); Axe Neo 7, Gatineau; VIVO Media Arts Centre, Vancouver (2016); Open Space, Victoria (2014); and many others. She completed her BFA with a minor in Anishinaabemowin at Algoma University (2013) and her MFA in Visual Art at the University of British Columbia (2016). She was awarded the John Hartman Award in 2018, the William and Meredith Saunderson Prize for Emerging Artists in 2016, and is a recipient of a CGS-M Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Award and an Aboriginal Graduate Fellowship. In 2019 she was awarded a Joseph S. Stauffer Prize by the Canada Council for the Arts.