Rebecca Belmore’s visual art recognized by Governor General
Visual artist Rebecca Belmore speaks through a wooden megaphone during an Ayumee-aawach Oomama-mowan: Speaking to Their Mother performance piece, which ran from 1991-1996, including a preformance/protest at the Assembly of First Nations in 1996.
The Lac Seul visual artist who represented Canada at the 2005 Venice Biennale has been honoured with a 2013 Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts.
“Throwing blood at the screen,” said Rebecca Belmore, describing her visual art piece at the Venice Biennale. “It shows me flailing around in the ocean and coming towards the camera lens with a bucket — one would assume it’s water but as I fling it at the lens it becomes blood.
And the looping of the video was just basically this idea of turning blood into water and water into blood.”
Belmore said the video was shot on the shore between the Vancouver International Airport and Musqueam First Nation.
“Basically I was thinking about the violence of the history on these lands and our relationship with the people who came to these lands,” Belmore said. “Also (I was) thinking about the future of water and how water is essential to our bodies. We need water; all life needs water. Water is becoming an increasing problem for people who don’t have fresh water.
Potentially, water will become something that could possibly cause a lot of problems between nations in the future.”
Belmore also created an art piece featuring a canoe overturning, The Great Water, which shows her respect for water.
“It was really about the power of water and I think as an Anishinabe growing up around the lakes in northwestern Ontario, I was taught to have great respect for water because of its power,” Belmore said. “I think an overturning canoe represents that we as human beings have to remember that we’re not as powerful as mother nature.”
The 2013 Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts were announced on March 12 at the Cinémathèque québécoise in Montreal. Belmore and the other six award winners were selected by an independent peer assessment committee.
“It was great to be with my peers and the other artists who were receiving awards,” Belmore said. “What I’m happy about with this award is it’s a peer recognition, which means a lot to an artist.”
A short video profile of Belmore is featured on the http://ggavma.canadacouncil.ca/ website along with profiles of the other award winners.
“The 2013 laureates embody Canadian art at its best,” said Robert Sirman, director and CEO of the Canada Council for the Arts. “Not only are they expanding the boundaries of their art forms and addressing the big questions of our time, their work creates new shapes, sounds and perspectives that change the way we perceive the world around us.”
Funded and administered by the Canada Council for the Arts, the awards recognize distinguished career achievements in visual and media arts by Canadian artists, as well as outstanding contributions through voluntarism, philanthropy, board governance, community outreach or professional activities.
Belmore and the other award winners received a $25,000 prize from the Canada Council and a special issue medallion produced in partnership with the Royal Canadian Mint.
“Hopefully, with my Governor General’s award, I will be able to rent a studio,” Belmore said, noting that she has not had a studio since moving to Winnipeg last August. “What I like about being in Winnipeg is that I’m around my own people once again. It’s interesting to hear the language being spoken on the street.”
Although Belmore found this winter to be “really cold,” she is enjoying the sunlight on the prairie.
“Last weekend I drove from Winnipeg to Saskatoon, and I was really amazed by the beauty of the landscape, when the snow-covered prairie meets a pale gray sky — it’s almost like being inside a minimalist painting,” Belmore said. “I anticipate a whole new body of work.”
Belmore encouraged other artists to remain committed to their practice.
“Being an artist is a very difficult choice in terms of financial security,” Belmore said. “But if you persevere and keep working, you never know. I think it is about really committing to making art. As an artist, you have a lot of freedom — that’s what I like about it.”
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