A Métis artist will address decolonization in a new art exhibit coming to the Museum of Surrey.
Tracey-Mae Chambers creates artworks that are meant to ignite conversation in spaces, such as museums and galleries, that have traditionally left segments of people out.
“It’s an immersive installation,” Chambers told the Cloverdale Reporter. “People walk into a room and they’ll be able to interact with it.”
Called #hopeandhealingcanada, Chambers’ installations—crocheted, knitted, or woven out of red yarn—incorporate some pre-made pieces from other exhibits, but overall each of the works is site-specific, designed to fit into each unique space.
Chambers, a member of the Métis Nation of Ontario, said people will be able to recognize pieces that have been installed at different venues.
“That one piece that looks like a flower you see on Shingwauk residential school is then seen in Quebec City on the cathedral and then you’ll see it in another space in Alberta and you’ll see it again in another place in Vancouver,” explained Chambers. “As it travels, it morphs into something else, but the message remains the same about decolonization.”
She noted that message begins with inserting her art into spaces that have traditionally only told the settler history and left, mainly Indigenous peoples, out.
“Why is my installation at a museum or gallery in the first place?” asked Chambers. “That itself is a conversion starter. In more depth, the staff is able to say, ‘We’re having an Indigenous or Métis artist here building this installation as sort of an intervention into a space that’s been historically settler-based, or told a settler-based story.’ It’s a starting point.”
Chambers sees her job as a bridge between getting the conversation going and decolonization. She asserts that she is not a policy-maker and hopes her exhibits, through dialogue, encourage hope and healing.
“Starting the conversation is always the pernickety part,” she added. “That’s the point of my work, to gently and respectfully start a conversation that is difficult to have.”
Chambers hopes that dialogue ends in recognition that there’s been a one-sided story in Canadian and North American history where the focus in the past has only been on settlers’ stories.
“My goal is that more than one story is told,” she said. “And that means everyone’s story. It’s incredibly important to me that everyone’s story is represented.”
A lifelong artist, Chambers started the #hopeandhealingcanada project in 2021.
Before that, in 2020, Chambers sold four “encaustic seed pod” sculptures she’d made to CBS for use in the TV show Star Trek Discovery.
“I didn’t believe them when they called me,” Chambers said. “Star Trek doesn’t call you, right? So it was weird, but it was awesome.”
She said the producers were so nice and it was satisfying for her to see her art used in the show (season 3).
The exhibit #hopeandhealingcanada will open at the Museum of Surrey Oct. 17 and run until Dec. 23.
For more info on Tracey-Mae Chambers and her projects, visit her website traceymae.com.
The Museum of Surrey is located at 17710 56A Avenue. Entrance is free.
To find out more info, contact the museum at 604-592-6956, or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit surrey.ca/arts-culture/museum-of-surrey.