Exhibit review: A Good, Long Look

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She’s really blossomed, don’t you think? Amina Salah

Acclaimed artist’s new exhibit explores her culture, family, and community

Shelley Niro is an artist and filmmaker. According to the National Gallery of Canada, she is a member of the Six Nations Reserve, Turtle Clan, Bay of Quinte Mohawk. Known to many for challenging the stereotypical perceptions of Indigenous peoples, Niro is a master at her craft. She holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in Fine Arts from the University of Western Ontario. Niro’s work has been showcased all over Canada in many museums and art exhibitions, and she has also received awards for her films. In 2003, Niro even showcased her art at Venice Biennale. Her most recent exhibit was at the Mackenzie, and A Good, Long Look is hosted by the Dunlop Art Gallery.

A Good, Long Look is a beautiful collection that features everything near and dear to Niro, being her culture, her community, and most of all, her family. Niro aims to show Indigenous women as they are, and not the way the post-colonial world portrays them. Incorporating her family into her work gives the viewer a glimpse into Niro’s life and the experiences of Indigenous women, with a focus on showing the mundane and the natural. The collection is covered with a layer of sincerity that can be seen in every single piece of Niro’s work. A Good, Long Look is a raw collection that radiates honesty, resilience, joy, and power. The fact that Niro depicts her family showcases how important her community is to her, and it forces us to look inward and ponder upon what is important to us. It’s beneficial to our ancestors that we honour where we come from, who our parents are, who our families are, and the struggles they faced.

One of the pieces, Chiquita 1, shows a picture of Niro’s mother when she was younger, surrounded by (and almost engulfed in) beautiful peach-coloured rose petals. It’s a beautiful work of art that feels so safe and peaceful to look at. It’s not only beautiful to look at, but it also induces a special feeling of serenity that is difficult to find in the fast-paced world we live in today. This piece was the most special to me because it reminds me of my mother and the complex life that she has lived.

We are so used to seeing our mothers just as the role that they play in our lives that we forget they were once just like us: they had stresses and went through the trials of beginning adulthood, and the growing pains that come with. Most of all, our mothers faced a lot of difficulties in a generation that praised submission and compliance above all else. Most could rarely stand up for themselves because they were more focused on surviving and trying to get by with what they had. If I were to be reincarnated, I would want to be born as my mother’s mother, so I could hold and comfort her.

A Good, Long Look is a breath of fresh air that showcases the importance of culture, family, community, and most importantly, how magical women are. The collection influences anyone viewing it to take A Good, Long Look, inward. The exhibit runs until March 25.

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