I think just opening up those spaces for those conversations and for that awareness can be healing…. To open it up and have these kind of public discussions and a public lens and a safe space to exercise and express yourself, I’ve seen over and over again in working that way that there’s a real value in that….
It had been a real journey to create these kinds of spaces and then look at the body of work that came out from all of the artists and to see these real intimate portrayals of what mental health meant to each of these artists and to the ways that they interpreted that in their artwork…. – Tania Willard, 2013
None of [the pieces in the exhibit] were resolved (laughing), they were just simply explorations and trying to kind of navigate through these different issues and maybe find some peace by depicting them and creating this body of work together. – Tania Willard, 2014
Tania Willard, Secwepemc Nation, works within the shifting ideas of contemporary and traditional as it relates to cultural arts and production. Often working with bodies of knowledge and skills that are conceptually linked to her interest in intersections between Aboriginal and other cultures. Willard has worked as an artist in residence with Gallery Gachet in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side, the Banff Centre’s visual arts residency, fiction and Trading Post and was a curator in residence with Grunt Gallery. Collections of Willard’s work include the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Kamloops Art Gallery and Thompson Rivers University. Willard’s recent curatorial work includes Beat Nation: Art Hip Hop and Aboriginal Culture, featuring 27 contemporary Aboriginal artists currently at Vancouver Art Gallery. Willard is currently the Aboriginal Curator in Residence at Kamloops Art Gallery in her home territory of Secwepemculecw.
Tania Willard’s Artist’s Statement:
In thinking about my residency with Gallery Gachet and exploring mental health issues for First Nations people in my work and with the group I wanted to acknowledge the historical traumas that affect our people. The title grew out of thinking about these issues, the substance use, residential schools, colonization, abuse all of our ‘crazymaking’ history.
My approach was to reflect on these issues but also to celebrate the strength of aboriginal people and the strength all marginalized people have to endure, and change their worlds. I am interested in telling stories that are hidden and erased, stories about Indian Insane Asylums, about Mohawk Saints and Native veterans, stories that are full of the paradoxical push and pull between our worlds. My grandfather was of mixed blood, Secwepemc and European roots, he said he lived in two worlds. I wanted to express this tension; this sacrifice and survival that we as Native people navigate and that sometimes (or always in some ways) drives us crazy.