One man’s trash is another man’s beadwork.
Nico Williams, an Anishinaabe contemporary artist, is turning pieces of garbage that he found lying on the ground in Montreal into beaded works of art for a new exhibition.
He said that In the past, Indigenous peoples used baskets and basketry to hold things, and passed these items down from generation to generation. With his latest work, he hopes to get people thinking about the objects they bring in their home, and how they are temporary pieces which only get used once.
His newest exhibition, ataason | ils emmagasinent | they store it, opened up at Blouin Division in Quebec City on Nov. 6.
“I’ve been getting contacted from the community and they’re like, oh my gosh, we love this work. And they’re laughing because it’s just so rez,” said Williams, who is from Aamjiwnaang First Nation.
In the past he has beaded lottery scratch tickets, and his newest exhibition features a three-dimensional-style beaded grocery bag, as well as cereal and Kraft Dinner boxes.
“I think there’s always humour within the Indigenous community because it’s like a healing process, and it’s great to have a good laugh with the community,” said Williams.
The artist has also beaded a J Cloth, which he says reminds him of his grandmother’s house.
“It’s just an object that we all had in our household,” said Williams.
“A lot of stuff happened in the kitchen like … when aunties would sit at a table on Sundays or Friday nights all together as a community. So it’s kind of interesting that I’m using these objects in the kitchen to try to have that discussion and that relationship.”
As a multidisciplinary artist, one of Williams’ main inspirations is to get people interested in beadwork.
He has a public art project, a metal beadwork sculpture, coming up in Quebec City in the spring, and has been teaching beading workshops to people interested in learning the craft.
“I just was really interested in how Nico was able to look around in his surroundings and then use that as inspiration for his art,” said Craig Commanda.
Commanda, who is from Kitigan Zibi Anishinaabeg, has been applying some of the techniques that he learned from Williams and has collaborated with the artist on a couple of projects.
Michelle McGeough, who is an assistant professor at Concordia University in the art history department, visited the exhibition on Saturday and said that she’s impressed by how Williams is taking everyday objects and turning them into pieces of art.
“I think that artists like Nico open up the possibilities for us to see and explore the materials that we work with in really different ways,” said McGeough.
The exhibit at Blouin Division is on until Jan. 22, 2022.