Pale Fire

Tania Willard: Sensitized

September 16–November 25, 2023

Exhibition Map

Pale Fire is pleased to collaborate with Unit 17 to present two parallel exhibitions by Tania Willard this autumn. Unit 17 will open Land Bank at an offsite location from October 7–December 10, 2023. The galleries will host a joint event in November.

In mid-August 2023, the Bush Creek East wildfire grew along the eastern shore of Adam’s Lake, creeping through Secwépemc territory toward Little Shuswap Lake in the southern Interior of British Columbia. The Neskonlith plateau, where Tania Willard lives and works, rises from the northern bank of the Thompson River, which feeds the lake’s southern end. In late summer, cottonwood’s leaves rattled in the wind, signalling how parched the earth was. For Willard, dawn and dusk were consumed by harvesting garlic, and her root shed was flush with bulbs strung up to dry. As a precaution, she gathered the soft filaments of fireweed seed and other highly flammable dried plants. One evening, a pyrocumulus cloud rose behind the hills to the northwest, and its dissipation cast a tawny haze. After a heavy rain, which quenched a long period of drought, the concentration of airborne particulate turned standing water the colour of rust.

Tania Willard is a mixed Secwépemc and settler artist whose research intersects with land-based art practices. Her practice activates a connection to land, culture and family, centering art as an Indigenous resurgent act through collaborative projects such as BUSH Gallery and support of language revitalization in Secwépemc communities. Her artistic and curatorial work includes Beat Nation: Art, Hip Hop and Aboriginal Culture at the Vancouver Art Gallery (2012–14) and Exposure: Native Art and Political Ecology at the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, Santa Fe (ongoing). Willard’s work is included in the collections of the Vancouver Art Gallery, Forge Project, Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, Kamloops Art Gallery and Anchorage Museum, among others. In 2016, she received the Hnatyshyn Foundation’s Award for Curatorial Excellence in Contemporary Art. In 2020, the Shadbolt Foundation awarded her the VIVA Award for outstanding achievement and commitment in her art practice, and in 2022, she was named a Forge Project Fellow for her land-based, community-engaged artistic practice. In 2023, Willard and the BUSH Gallery project were designated recipients of the Ruth Foundation for the Arts Future Studies award.

Tania Willard: Land Bank
Unit 17 (offsite)
October 7–December 10, 2023

Unit 17 presents four new works from Willard’s series Snowbank and Other Investments (2020–). The series takes inspiration from the artist’s use of a snowbank as a projection screen near her home, and explores financial terms and ideas of value inherent in Indigenous relationships with land that contrast private property paradigms. The photographs depict assemblages of materials such as birchbark, silk ribbon, chains, dyed deer tails, photographs and etchings. Willard’s decolonial content draws on meme-like phrases while meditating on land and economic value, as well as Indigenous land rights. Three of the works were recently shown at the 2022 FotoFocus Biennial at the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati.