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S. Ruth Cuthand

Ruth Cuthand was born on Treaty 6 Land, of Plains Cree and Scottish ancestry. She grew up in Alberta near the Blood Reserve, where at the age of eight she met artist Gerald Tailfeathers and decided that she too wanted to be an artist. Cuthand studied at the University of Regina in 1977 before completing her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Saskatoon at the University of Saskatchewan in 1983. She later pursued post-graduate studies at the University of Montana (1985), completing her Master of Fine Arts at the University of Saskatchewan (1992). She was instrumental in developing the first Aboriginal Art History courses at the University of Saskatchewan and until recent budget cuts to the First Nations University of Canada, taught Art and Art History at the Saskatoon Campus. She was awarded the 2013 Saskatchewan Lieutenant Governor’s Award and in 2015 was named Alumni of Influence by the College of Arts and Science at the University of Saskatchewan.

Cuthand is a multi-media artist who has worked in printmaking, painting, drawing, photography and beadwork throughout her career. For over 30 years, this Saskatoon-based artist has been challenging perspectives on colonialism with a practice marked by political critique that is often darkly humourous. Her works “talk back” to mainstream media and colonial society, addressing the frictions between cultures and the failures of representation. Her art addresses themes such as colonialism, Aboriginal representation in mainstream media and in Canadian politics, and the history of abuse in residential schools.

Cuthand's first solo show, "S. Ruth Cuthand: The Trace of Ghost Dance," was held in 1990 at Regina's MacKenzie Art Gallery. She has exhibited in many solo and group exhibitions since, including at Saskatoon's Mendel Art Gallery, Thunder Bay Art Gallery, and AKA Gallery (Saskatoon). In 2011, Jen Budney, (then Associate Curator, Mendel Art Gallery) organized BACK TALK (works 1983-2009), an exhibition that has travelled to galleries across Canada, including the Mendel Art Gallery in Saskatoon, the Confederation Centre Art Gallery in Charlottetown, and the Mount Saint Vincent Gallery in Halifax. Its bilingual (Cree/English) exhibition catalogue was shortlisted for the 2013 Saskatchewan Book Awards, and features essays by noted contemporary curators, including Joan Borsa, Lee-Ann Martin and Gerald McMaster. Cuthand's work was also featured in the exhibition, "Oh, Canada", at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in 2012.

Cuthand has received considerable acclaim for her beaded works, which present enlarged microscopic views of some of the deadly viruses and bacteria that have impacted (and often decimated) First Nations communities in both the distant past and the present day. The striking colour and seductive shimmer of the glass beads make the works visually compelling; luminous discs floating on luxurious black velvet surfaces. The true power of the series; however, is Cuthand's balancing of attraction and revulsion, where the visual beauty of the objects are complicated by the dark and inescapable colonial history embedded within. It is a contradiction that viewers are ecouraged to ponder: "It’s beautiful and it’s abhorrent, so it puts you off guard," Cuthand says in an interview with Jen Budney, "I like using opposites to get people to think." To date, she has produced three distinct series: "Trading", which includes diseases from the earliest days of colonization, "Reserving", which highlights diseases that have affected indigenous populations in North America from the mid-1880s through to the 1980s, and "Surviving", which visualizes some of the modern diseases that have been named or discovered since 1980, and often disproportionately impact First Nations communities. In 2009, the MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina received the prestigious York Wilson Endowment Award to purchase six of the beaded works; the Mendel Art Gallery has acquired three. Her works can also be found in the collections of Laurentian University Museum and Art Gallery, Department of Indian and Northern Affairs (Ottawa), and the Saskatchewan Arts Board.

Curriculum Vitae

Education
BFA, 1983, University of Saskatchewan
MFA, 1992, University of Saskatchewan

Solo Exhibitions
2015 Don’t Drink, Don’t Breathe, Mann Art Gallery, Prince Albert, Saskatchewan
2014 Back Talk: Ruth Cuthand (works 1983-2009), Plug In ICA, Winnipeg, Manitoba
2013 Back Talk: Ruth Cuthand (works 1983-2009), Thunder Bay Art Gallery,Thunder Bay, Ontario
2012 Back Talk: Ruth Cuthand (works 1983-2009), Confederation Art Centre, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
2012 Back Talk: Ruth Cuthand (works 1983-2009), Mount Saint Vincent University Art Gallery, Halifax, Nova Scotia
2011 Back Talk: Ruth Cuthand (works 1983-2009), Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
2010 Dis-ease, Red Shift Gallery, Saskatoon, SK
1999 Indian Portraits: Late 20th Century, Wanuskewin Museum, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
1993 Location/Dislocation, Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
1992 Misuse is Abuse II, MFA Exhibition, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
1990 Misuse is Abuse, Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
1990 Traces of the Ghost Dance, Artists with Their Work, MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan

Selected Group Exhibitions
2016 Counter History and the Other, Wanuskewin Heritage Park, Saskatoon, SK
2014 306'ERS: A WAVE FROM SASKATCHEWAN, dc3 Art Projects, Edmonton, Alberta
2013 New Gallery Artists, The Gallery/Art Placement Inc., Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
2012 Restoration, Strandline Collective and Estevan Art Gallery and Museum, Estevan, Saskatchewan
2012-2015 Oh, Canada, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, North Adams, Massachusetts
2011 Demanding a Response: Contemporary Aboriginal Art History in Saskatchewan, MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan
2010 Cherished Things, Harbourfront, Toronto, Ontario and Saskatoon Exhibition, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
2010 to be reckoned with, Mackenzie Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan
2010 Restoration, Art Gallery of Prince Albert, Prince Albert, Saskatchewan
2008 Coming-to-Presence: Works by Saskatchewan Aboriginal/Metis Artists, Dunlop Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan
2004 A History Lesson: Contemporary Aboriginal art from the collection of the MacKenzie Art Gallery, Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, Toronto, Ontario
2004 Beyond Words : Au-dela des mots, Art Gallery of Bishop’s University, Lennoxville, Quebec
2003 Beyond Words, Mount Saint Vincent University Art Gallery, Halifax, Nova Scotia
2002 No X Plain Nation, Winnipeg Art Gallery, Winnipeg, Manitoba
2001 Contract Work, Gordon Snelgrove Gallery, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon
2000 Cultural Cross Currents: ConTexts, MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan
1999 Politics, Little Gallery, Prince Albert, Saskatchewan
1997 Claiming Ourselves, Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
1997 Here and Now, Dunlop Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan
1996-98 Native Love, Nation to Nation, Montreal, Quebec, Toured Canada
1994 Sharing Identities II, Gordon Snelgrove Gallery, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon
1992 Beyond 500 Years, Gordon Snelgrove Gallery, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon
1991-92 5th Biennial Native American Fine Arts Invitational, The Heard Museum, Phoenix, Arizona
1991 Sharing the Circle: Contemporary Works by First Nation’s Artists, Saskatchewan Arts Board, Toured Saskatchewan
1991 Remembering and Telling, MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan
1989 Changers: A Spiritual Renaissance, National arts and Crafts Corporation, Toured Canada
1988 Ode’min, Laurentian University Museum and Art Centre, Sudbury, Ontario
1988 Quiet Protest, AKA Gallery, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
1987 Eight From the Prairies: Part Two, Thunder Bay Art Gallery, A National Exhibition Centre and Centre for Indian Art, Thunder Bay, Ontario

Videography
Word for Word, (100:00) Ruth Cuthand and Elizabeth MacKenzie, 1995

Screenings/Exhibitions
PEI Experiment, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, 1998
Other Tongues, Open Space Gallery, Victoria, British Columbia, 1998
Fragile Electrons: Twenty Years of Collecting Video Art, The National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa,Ontario, 1998
Beyond Tonto, Tribe Inc, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan 1998
Screening, Video Verite, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, 1997
Bag Your Lip, YYZ Gallery, Toronto, Ontario 1997
Tongue, Truck Gallery, Calgary, Alberta, 1997
Video Plastique, Centre d’art contemporain Basse-Normandie, France, 1996

Selected Bibliography
Adams, James. 62 artists, 120 works, four years in the making, 100 per cent Canadian, "Globe and Mail", Saturday, May 26 2012
Helterman, Jolyon. Southern Exposure, "The Walrus", September 2012
Tousley, Nancy. Oh, Canada: National Dreams, "Canadian Art Online", May 31,2012
Budney, Jen. Ruth Cuthand’s Back Talk, "Ruth Cuthand: Back Talk", Mendel Art Gallery/Tribe Inc. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan 2012
Borsa, Joan. A Seriously Twisted History: Ruth Cuthand Restages Canadiana, "Ruth Cuthand: BackTalk", Mendel Art Gallery/Tribe Inc, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, 2012
Martin, Lee Ann. Dresses and Dolls: The Aboriginal Women’s Voice in Ruth Cuthand’s Work, "Ruth Cuthand: Back Talk", Mendel Art Gallery/Tribe Inc, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan 2012
McMaster, R. Gerald Death Songs: New World Holocaust, "Ruth Cuthand: Back Talk", Mendel Art Gallery/Tribe Inc, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, 2012
Chase, Penny. Transformation and Beauty, "Contested Territories", Indigeneity Artists Collective, March 2011
Gazzola, Bart. Ruth Cuthand, "Canadian Art", Fall 2011
Beatty, Gregory. Pick of the Day: James Henderson, "Prairie Dog", Sunday, May 9, 2010
Robertson, Patricia Dawn. Dangerous Beauty, "Galleries West", Summer 2010, Vol. 9 No. 2
Robertson, Patricia Dawn. Inside the Collection: Contemporary Aboriginal Art at the MacKenzie Gallery, "Galleries West" Summer 2010, Vol. 9 No. 2
Gazzola, Bart. Beware of Baubles: Beautiful beadwork carries dark message on colonialism, "Planet S", February 11-24, 2010
Rattray, Michael Frederick. M.A. Thesis: Mapping the Post-Colonial Landscape Project: A Critical Analysis, Concordia University, Montreal: Department of Art History, 2008
Garneau, David. Contested Histories, "Contested Histories", Art Gallery of Regina, Regina Saskatchewan, 2005
Kelly, Amanda. M.A. Thesis: How do First Nations Artists from Saskatchewan Approach Issues of Identity?, Cambridge: Department of History of Art, 2000
Robertson, Sheila. Playing ‘injun’ is no game, "Star Phoenix", Saturday March 27, 1999
Bell, Lynne. Remembering and Telling: Stories of Identity and Location, MacKenzie Art Gallery, 1991
Richmond, Cindy. Trace of the Ghost Dance, MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan, 1990
Robertson, Sheila. Drawings Explore Indians’ Feelings About Prejudice, "Star Phoenix" Saskatoon, December 15, 1990
Crean,Susan. The Female Gaze Changing Directions: A new perspective on Native women’s art, "Canadian Art", Winter 1989
Podedworny, Carol. Eight From the Prairies: Part Two, Thunder Bay Art Gallery, Thunder Bay, Ontario, 1987
Zepp, Norman. Two Worlds, Norman MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan, 1985

Curatorial
2006 Wally Dion: Red Worker, AKA Gallery, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
2005 Watch this: New video from Indian Country, PAVED Screening, Saskatoon and Regina
2002 Mediating Violence, Public Art Project, Co-curator Cindy Baker, Co-produced AKA Gallery and Tribe Inc.
1997 Blowing on the Mud: Art of the first People, Kenderdine Art Gallery, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK
1997 Traversing Tribe’s Terrain, Gordon Snelgrove Gallery, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon

Collections
The National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario
The Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Ontario
University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, Ottawa, Ontario
Thunder Bay Art Gallery, Thunder Bay Ontario
Laurentian University Museum and Art Gallery, Sudbury Ontario
MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan
Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Art Bank, Canada Council for the Arts, Ottawa, Ontario
Saskatchewan Arts Board, Regina, Saskatchewan

PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE
Jury Member, Canada Council for the Arts, various juries, including: Art Bank, Visual Short Term Grants, Visual Arts ”B” Grants, Visual Arts “C”, Explorations, First People’s Advisory Committee
Jury Member, Saskatchewan Arts Board, Visual Arts Grants

GRANTS
Saskatchewan Arts Board “C” Professional Development 1985
Saskatchewan Arts Board “B” Grant 1994
Canada Council “B” Grant 2001
Saskatchewan Arts Board “B” 2004
Saskatchewan Arts Board “B” 2008
Saskatchewan Arts Board Visual Arts grant 2011
Canada Council Visual Arts Creation grant 2013
Saskatchewan Arts Board, Creation grant 2014

Awards
The Lieutenant Governor’s Arts Awards 2013, Saskatchewan Artist
University of Saskatchewan, College of Arts & Science, 2015 Alumni of Influence Award

 


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