Gellman’s recent project Creative Resilience in Precarious Times highlights the ways in which the conditions of isolation and disruption wrought by the COVID pandemic also created opportunities for re-engaging place-based practices. By collecting natural materials sourced from local plants and animals to create a diverse array of artist’s brushes, the work of Gellman, and her student collaborator Yaazin Pillay, drew from Indigenous approaches of care-full harvest that recognized the inherent kinship between the human and non human. At the same time, Gellman’s project also points to the pressing matter of sustainable use and the intention with which contemporary cultures must reorient extractive, consumer mindsets in favor of regenerative reuse. — AY
Artist Reflection —
In this project, I set myself and my graduate student Yaazin Pillay the task of collecting materials that were easily available in our locale, many of which could be gathered during my forest walks. I had access to local branches, bamboo and plant materials found on the premises of the university and in adjacent gardens, and also to a diverse range of animal pelts that are used in making traditional work in our Aboriginal student center. We allowed the materials to guide our process—exploring how bamboo and wood could be cut, whittled or carved, how the brush and ferule could be constructed and what sorts of plant and animal materials created what kinds of mark-making. This exploration led to the creation of an extraordinary array of 54 brushes made with leaves and grasses, bear and caribou fur, muskrat hair and horse tail, and wolf, rabbit, and seal fur. I have since incorporated this project into all of my interdisciplinary art classes and have included lessons on making pigments from one’s own kitchen and garden. This project reinforces the notion of constraint as an important catalyst for creative inspiration.
About Mimi Gellman
Mimi Gellman is an Anishinaabe/ Métis visual artist, educator, and curator with a multi-streamed practice that includes drawing and painting, architectural glass, and conceptual installation. Gellman’s interdisciplinary work explores phenomenology and technologies of intuition through an embodied practice of walking and mapping and through works and installations that point to the animacy and agency of objects. The cross-cultural dialogue exemplified in her work brings forward decolonial aesthetic perspectives and suggests a pre-existing connection to other-than-human worlds. It is her cosmological orientation, in other words—her Anishinaabe /Métis worldview and the language that expresses it that predisposes her to be open to the reality of the spirit and life of objects and their ability to communicate across diverse thresholds. She is currently an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Culture and Community at Emily Carr University and has a PhD in Cultural Studies from Queen’s University on the metaphysics of Indigenous mapping.She continues to exhibit internationally, with recent exhibitions in France, Germany, and Tokyo and was included in the seminal exhibition “On line” at the MOMA in 2011.