Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Reframing Her Nation: an interview with Maria Hupfield*

Image credit: Maria Hupfield From Pigment to Pantone and Back Again. 10ft x 20ft, Photo mural with latex paint,  2010

Interdisciplinary artist Maria Hupfield was commissioned by the Art Gallery of Alberta (AGA) to respond to the landscape exhibition titled "Reframing a Nation" (2010) curated from the AGA collection by Ruth Burns. Hupfield produced a wall sized monochromatic photo-mural, titled From Pigment to Pantone and Back, depicting her and her double in an artificial wilderness, caught in a moment of tension. She painted four stripes of colour directly onto the photo that reached across onto the gallery walls. Acknowledging traditions and history of both Western and Indigenous modes of landscape and identity representation, Hupfield creates a space for herself by moving freely between mediums such as photography and performance and working through the materiality of her artistic process.

On leave from her teaching position at Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in Vancouver, Hupfield is currently working and living in New York City on a series of new projects.

Amy Fung: I first saw your work in the "Face the Nation" (2008) exhibitionat the AGA,  curated by Catherine Crowston, and this piece, From Pigment to Pantone and Back is a continuation from the exhibition? I am thinking of Trees from The Counterpoint Series.  Can you talk about your thoughts for the commission of From Pigment?

Maria Hupfield: Originally when this project came up, the work that was referenced did come from "Face the Nation", but it wasn’t the photo works. It was the mural East Wind Brings a New Day that references Tom Thomson’s West Wind.  I painted directly onto the walls and I was looking at the idea of landscapes and how that was connected to nationhood. So when the AGA was looking at their collection for "Reframing a Nation", Ruth thought of me and invited me to respond to the collection as a First Nations Person and set a context to frame how the works could be viewed. 
In the end I did this piece, From Pigment to Pantone and Back, where I combined both the photo-mural with a painting component from "Face the Nation."

AF:  The majority of works in “Reframing a Nation” are straight forward oil landscapes and they  present a view of the “Canadian wilderness” but your landscape is that of an urban wilderness. Can you talk about that?

MH: When I was invited to respond to the works, I wanted to complicate the issue of landscapes a little bit more. I found it ironic to be in an urban setting with all of these typically romanticized landscapes of the Canadian prairies on the walls. I knew I wanted to use an image that had an urban context. I drew upon the photo series in which I had documented public places where natural environments had been manipulated or controlled to affect how we engage with the natural world. The image that was used was taken from a front area of the Marriott Hotel in downtown Vancouver. I wanted it to look like a manicured artificial space that referenced the urban and then situated the two figures within it  . . .

*Read the full interview in the Winter 2011 Issue of BlackFlash.

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