First Nations Erotica Exhibit Comes to Vancouver

Preston Singletary: Geoduck, 2012.  Courtesy of Preseton Singletary Inc. Photo: Russell Johnson

Preston Singletary: Geoduck, 2012.
Courtesy of Preseton Singletary Inc. Photo: Russell Johnson

Chances are you’ve never seen First Nations art quite like this.

Just opened at Vancouver’s Bill Reid Gallery, RezErect focuses on the world of native erotica.  The cheekily named exhibition highlights sexually charged works from 27 First Nations artists, from phallic-shaped geoduck (giant saltwater clam) sculptures to bentwood boxes meant to connote the female anatomy.

“Sex figures prominently in aboriginal stories across the continent, as sexual humour, playful irreverence, spiritual reverence, place names, morality tales or other meanings lost in time,” writes co-curator and Haida artist Gwaii Edenshaw.  “We hope to carry on that tradition here – sexy, intelligent, provocative and fun.”

The exhibition, which is intended for adults and youth 16 years and older, will no doubt raise some eyebrows.  In place of somber totem poles and tribal masks are playful, often unexpected depictions of sexuality in aboriginal culture, crafted in a variety of media, from wood to natural fibres.  Inspiration is drawn from the natural world, oral histories, creation stories, ancient songs, dances and even traditional foods.

“The works will challenge you to look at sexuality,” writes co-curator Kwiaahwah Jones.   “They might make you laugh, blush, cry or even leave you hungry.”

Hungry? That might be referring to the above-mentioned geoduck, a staple of First Nations cuisine and also popular among a range of Asian cultures.

Keeping with the theme of erotica, the exhibit also features a panel on the “pornification” of society, nude drawing classes and even burlesque.

Rez Erect: Native Erotica runs Sept. 25-Feb. 16 at the Bill Reid Gallery in downtown Vancouver.  Among the participating artists from the Lower Mainland and beyond are Nicholas Galanin, Shawn Hunt, Dionne Paul, Preston Singletary and Alide Kinnie Starr. Adult tickets are $10.

What do you think about portraying First Nations culture through the lens of erotica? Weigh in below.  

For more updates on First Nations and other exhibits in Vancouver and beyond, follow me on Twitter @RemyScalza.  

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2 Responses to First Nations Erotica Exhibit Comes to Vancouver

  1. Lois

    I think this piece as stunning – as I do with nearly every piece of First Nation Art I’ve ever seen! I was surprised when I read that it was an Erotica Exhibition as my first thought was it was a dorsal fin …. and the colours are soft, subtle and subdued. So you could display it and for those who see it as I did and those who understand its true meaning, it is a winner

  2. Angela Tonks

    Love the piece featured in the article. I am in Australia and could not visit the exhibition no matter how much I wanted. Would live to be able to view more. Love when the innate sensuality of natural forms gets utilised by man to express human desire.