Tia Cavanagh, Artist – Peterborough

Originally from the northern shores of Lake Huron in Ontario, Tia Cavanagh has lived and studied in Havelock, Norwood, Peterborough, Montreal, and Toronto. Having achieved her BFA at OCAD University, she now studies at Trent University and is working on her Master’s degree in Canadian and Indigenous Studies. She is a multi-disciplinary artist who uses materials such as paint, wood, fabrics, sculpture, and projection to explore approaches and understanding through the creative lens of an Indigenous woman drawing upon Indigenous research methodologies. Storytelling, process, discovery, and new meaning are at the core of her art making. Her solo exhibition jibwaa aawang/miiniwaa nongwa/baamaa pii is on display at Artspace in Peterborough until July 13.

  1. Contemporary Indigenous art

Jeffrey Gibson, American History, 2015

Indigenous artists/artists who are Indigenous are making some very powerful art. What is so important about their work is the ability to tell stories, confront ideologies, and flip the script – that is, reclaim Indigenous iconography. James Luna, my favourite performance artist, has recently passed. If you don’t know his work, check out his Artifact Piece from 1987. Indigenous art is resistance, education, activism, resurgence, beautiful, and visual and visceral storytelling. Some of my favourite Indigenous artists are Gregg Deal, Rebecca Belmore, Terrence Houle, Meryl McMaster, Sonny Assu, Jeffrey Gibson, Brian Jungen, the late Annie Pootoogook, Shelley Niro, Karoo Ashevak, and Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun.

  1. Being Uncomfortable

Tia Cavanagh, In Honour of my Nokimos, 2017

I answer a lot of random calls for art making. While I consider myself a painter-painter, I enjoy the challenge of learning new skills and mediums. To be a professional artist is difficult and to make ends meet we have to be adaptable. I find it a pleasure and challenge to consider how my own methods and ideologies can be transferred to different mediums. I’ve been critiqued in art school that my work all looks so different. Caring about something and having a narrative as an artist is important. I’ve never been a fan of creating multiple pieces that look the same.

  1. Alanis Obomsawin

She is an incredible Indigenous director and documentary filmmaker. I first encountered her films fifteen years ago and now they are fantastic teaching tools I can use for my students. She tells stories of Indigenous resistance, Residential Schools, generational trauma, tensions of the crown and Indigenous peoples, and Kanehsatake, to name a few. There are around twenty-eight of her films available to watch on the National Film Board website.

  1. Haruki Murakami

Murakami is by far my favourite fiction writer and his work is probably my only true obsession. I have read everything he has written (besides his newest novel Killing Commendatore, though the spine is cracked). Some of his works are more surreal than others and often there are cats and sometimes they talk. One aspect I enjoy about his work is how the protagonist is often a loner or an introvert. Isolation is a reoccurring theme as is the seemingly mundane. Murakami has this way of diverting from the main plot to elaborately explain a routinely mundane task in the most beautiful way. You must love being lost in this magical area, you must be able to see the intricacy and beauty in the mundane to appreciate his work.

  1. Textiles

Tia Cavanagh, Pain Quilt, 2017

Recently I’ve been considering the properties of textile beyond domestic enjoyment. I’ve been thinking about texture and, in turn, sensory processing as an outlet to tell the story of our bodies. It began as a way to tell the story of my own body and its lived experience by creating the quilt you see pictured above. Each swatch represents one month of my life and there is a correlating texture that conveys the experience of my body. I’ve had a lot of injury, healing, and immobility. Creating this work was a way to honour my body and its own story – to map it out visually as a way of celebrating what is has been through. This process of mapping with texture became a workshop I developed for survivors of sexual abuse. Participants were able to tell the story of their body without the use of words.