Spirit: Focus on Indigenous Art, Artists, and Issues: Shelby Lisk
Shelby Lisk wrote about and created Time Spent Breathing Under Water during an artist residency on Toronto Island. She created this series using water from Lake Ontario and in the darkroom slowly moving it with her body and her breath.
“I see it, in many ways, as a visual poem. I am interested in exploring my relationship to water as something that’s passed down from ancestors. It’s my blood memory. Often when we talk about blood memory and Indigenous people, the conversation is framed around intergenerational trauma, which is a conversation that also needs to happen, but I think it’s important to explore the positive aspects that also get passed down through our blood.” Shelby explains.
A question she had been thinking about when she created this work was one that Robin Wall Kimmerer, Potawatomi botanist, brings up. She asks her students if they love the earth, to which they unanimously agree, but in asking the question “does the earth love you back?” and people don’t know what to say. Lisk says, “In that way, we see ourselves acting on the natural world but forget the natural world gives to us (in an abundance of beauty, delicious food, shelter, and on and on) and acts upon us as well. We forget that water is her own autonomous being that takes care of us and teaches us. Robin says that knowing this creates a reciprocal relationship that gives us a great responsibility like we have when caring for anyone we love.”
Lisk has been working on creating a physical representation of her relationship with water, through spending close, intimate time with her and always thinking, “am I a good partner in this relationship?” These photogram-inspired darkroom prints are an exploration of the artist’s relationship to water. Through small gestures of movement and breath, she interacts with the water in the dark to create subtle, sublime imagery. Shelby Lisk was nominated for this year’s celebration of Indigenous artists by Pat Kane (IG:@patkanephoto)
Shelby Lisk is a multidisciplinary artist, filmmaker, and photographer with roots in Kenhtè:ke (Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory). She completed her degree in Fine Arts, with a minor in Gender Studies at the University of Ottawa and a diploma in Photojournalism at Loyalist College. Additionally, she has a certificate in Mohawk Language and Culture through Queen’s University and Tsi Tyónnheht Onkwawén:na. Shelby uses her artwork to explore her connection to and place in the world as a Kanyen’kehá:ka woman.
Shelby’s artwork and films have been shown in Canada, the US, New Zealand, and the UK. Her writing, artwork, and photography have been featured in Red Rising Magazine, Room Magazine, Hart House Review, Maclean’s Magazine, and #NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women, published by Annick Press. Shelby is a member of Indigenous Photograph. She was recently long-listed for the Scotiabank New Generation Photography Award (2021) and is the recipient of an Indigenous Arts and Stories Governor General’s History Award (Historica Canada 2018). Shelby’s work will be featured in the 2022 Karsh Continuum in February 2022.
Follow Shelby on Instagram: @shelbyliskphoto
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