Joi T. Arcand, Celeste Pedri-Spade, Catherine Blackburn and Nadya Kwandibens

Curated by Ariel Smith

April 21 – June 3, 2023
Opening Reception: April 21, 6-8pm

Catherine Blackburn, Scooped (detail), 2017, photos, 24 kt gold-plated beads, seed beads, thread, 12 x 9cm. Courtesy of the artist.

Native Women in the Arts and Critical Distance Centre for Curators are pleased to present Materialized in partnership with Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival and Partners in Art. The exhibition is curated by Ariel Smith and features works by Joi T. Arcand, Celeste Pedri-Spade and Catherine Blackburn, with a public art billboard by Nadya Kwandibens.

Combining portrait photography with elements from adornment arts, textiles, sculpture, and customary Indigenous art practices, Materialized examines themes of intergenerational memory, familial narrative, and decolonization. By using their craft to reclaim portraiture as a form of self-expression and self-determination, each artist resists the colonial metanarratives contained in settler-made images of Indigenous subjects.

Images (left to right): Celeste Pedri-Spade, Shirley’s Tobacco Bag, 2014, Delica beads, brain tanned moose hide. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Rebecca Bose. Joi T. Arcand, Through That Which is Scene, 2014, found objects, photographs, acrylic sheets, wood, glue. Courtesy of the artist.

Through their multifaceted practices, the artists in Materialized individually and collectively raise— and unpack—crucial questions about photography: How can photographs—both archival and contemporary—support personal and familial histories? And how can these same photographs act as the basis for social, political, and conceptual explorations of Indigenous identity when they are put through a process of physical materialization?

Nadya Kwandibens, Shiibaashka’igan: Honouring the Sacred Jingle Dress, 2019, digital photography. Courtesy of the artist.

As a satellite component to the gallery exhibition, Animakee Wa Zhing #37 First Nation artist and recently appointed Toronto Photo Laureate, Nadya Kwandibens’ photograph Shiibaashka’igan: Honouring the Sacred Jingle Dress (2019) will be presented on a public billboard located outside Artscape Youngplace at 180 Shaw Street.

Please join us for the opening reception on April 21st from 6 to 8pm. A panel with the artists and curator will take place on April 22 from 1 to 3pm at Urbanspace Gallery. Capacity is limited, register on Eventbrite.

To learn more about the artists, curators, and upcoming programs, please visit our website.

Artists’ Bios

Joi T. Arcand is an artist from Muskeg Lake Cree Nation, Saskatchewan, Treaty 6 Territory, currently residing in Ottawa, Ontario. In 2018, Arcand was shortlisted for the prestigious Sobey Art Award. Her practice includes installation, photography and design and is characterized by a visionary and Subversive reclamation and indigenization of public spaces through the use of Cree language and syllabics. She is currently a student at University nuhelotʼįne thaiyotsʼį nistameyimâkanak Blue Quills and a member of the art and curatorial collective: Wolf Babe.

Catherine Blackburn was born in Patuanak Saskatchewan, of Dene and European ancestry and is a member of the English River First Nation. She is a multidisciplinary artist and jeweller, whose common themes address Canada’s colonial past that are often prompted by personal narratives. Her work merges mixed media and fashion to create dialogue between historical art forms and new interpretations of them. Through utilizing beadwork and other historical adornment techniques, she creates space to explore Indigenous sovereignty, decolonization and representation. Her work has been exhibited in notable national and international exhibitions and fashion runways.

Nadya Kwandibens is Anishinaabe from the Animakee Wa Zhing #37 First Nation in northwestern Ontario. She is an award winning photographer and a Canon Ambassador. In 2008 she founded Red Works Photography, a dynamic photography company empowering contemporary Indigenous lifestyles and cultures through photographic essays, features, and portraits. Nadya’s photography has been exhibited in group and solo shows across Canada and the United States. She currently resides in Tkarón:to on Wendat, Haudenosaunee, Mississauga of the Credit River & Dish With One Spoon Territory.

Celeste Pedri-Spade is an Anishinabekwe artist from Lac Des Mille Lacs First Nation. She identifies as a “mark maker” who works primarily with textiles and photography. Celeste holds a PhD in Visual Anthropology and is an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at McGill University where she is also the inaugural Associate Provost of Indigenous Initiatives. Her art practice is committed to honouring the women in her life and exploring the tactile and sensuous meanings made possible through creative entanglements with our material environments.

Curator’s Bio

Ariel Smith is an award winning nêhiyaw, white settler and Jewish filmmaker, video artist, writer, and cultural worker. Ariel has worked as a programmer/curator for such organizations as galerie saw gallery, The Ottawa International Animation Festival, Reel Canada, imagineNATIVE, Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre, and the National Gallery of Canada. Ariel works as the Artistic and Managing Director of Native Women in the Arts and is in the process of completing an MFA in Film Production from York University.

Critical Distance wishes to acknowledge our partners and funders for generous support in making this project possible. Thank you to Partners in Art and Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival for support for Materialized, and to Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario for annual funding support for Critical Distance.


Please note our new location. Critical Distance is located on the ground floor at 401 Richmond Street West (Suite 122), a wheelchair accessible building with a ramp at the Richmond Street doors, and an accessible washroom on every level. The gallery is equipped with automatic doors and access to exhibitions, artworks, publications, and events is prioritized from development through production for all programs. This exhibition will include visual description. Additional access measures for events will be published. If you have any questions about access, please do not hesitate to contact us at

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