Labours of Love presents a selection of work from Barry Ace (M’Chigeeng First Nation – Anishinaabe – Odawa) Catherine Blackburn (English River First Nation – Dënesųłinë́), and Justine Woods (Georgian Bay Metis Community – Aabitaawizininiwag). Their beaded garments and adornments are carefully constructed, bead by bead and stitch by stitch, each a gesture of love that contains rich histories and cultural knowledge that have been shared with the artists across generations. Each artist has developed their own unique approach to beadwork, joining the historical practices of their kin with their personal interests, relationships, and experiences to root their practice in the present, while laying a path for the future that expands the possibilities of what beadwork can communicate.
Barry Ace is a practicing multidisciplinary artist currently living in Ottawa. He is a debendaagzijig (citizen) of M’Chigeeng First Nation, Odawa Mnis (Manitoulin Island), Ontario, Canada. Ace’s work responds to the impact of the digital age and how it exponentially transforms and infuses Anishinaabeg culture (and other global cultures) with new technologies and new ways of communicating. His work attempts to harness and bridge the precipice between historical and contemporary knowledge, art, and power, while maintaining a distinct Anishinaabeg aesthetic connecting generations. His work has been shown in numerous exhibitions nationally and internationally and is held in significant permanent collections, such as the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Ontario.
Born in Patuanak Saskatchewan, Catherine Blackburn is of Dene and European ancestry and is a member of the English River First Nation. A multidisciplinary artist and jeweller, she uses beadwork and other historical adornment techniques to explore Indigenous sovereignty, decolonization and representation. Her work has been included in notable exhibitions such as the Contemporary Indigenous Art Biennial/La Biennale d’Art Contemporain Autochtone (2018), Montreal, and BorderLINE 2020 Biennial of Contemporary Art, Edmonton and Saskatoon. She has received many grants and awards for her work including a Governor General History Award, the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation grant, and the Saskatchewan RBC Emerging Artist Award.
Justine Woods (she/her) is a garment artist, designer, creative scholar, and educator. She is a Doctoral Candidate in the Media and Design Innovation practice-based Ph.D. program at Toronto Metropolitan University. Justine’s research and design practice centres Indigenous fashion and garment-making as practice-based methods of inquiry toward re-stitching alternative worlds that prioritize Indigenous resurgence and liberation. Justine was born and raised in Tiny, Ontario, and is a member of the Georgian Bay Métis Community (St. Onge and Berger-Beaudoin families). Her ancestors come from Drummond Island and were relocated in 1828 to Penetanguishene, Ontario where they built diasporic roots with their kin and community that continue to hold strong to this present day.