The first time I saw work by Keesic Douglas was at his graduate show at Ontario College of Art and Design. A friend of mine, who was one of his professors, had told me that I had to see his work. Every year OCAD has a large open house where all the graduating students can exhibit their work. Every room throughout the entire building is used. My friend acted as my guide to find the small room that Keesic was given for his exhibit.
Keesic’s images were large black and white portraits. He had photographed his friends in a studio setting with a white seamless backdrop. Each portrait was set up the same; with the person looking straight at the camera. After the studio session he printed the images and then handed them back to his friends. Each person was then asked to draw on their portraits with felt pens how they felt other people perceived them. Keesic and the friends that he photographed are all of First Nations heritage. The resulting collaboration between artist and model brought to the forefront issues of stereotypes and alienation. Keesic’s artistic practice continues to focus on issues which surround his Native heritage.
When I asked him to be apart of the Beyond Imaginings exhibition I knew that this would play a key part in how he approached this commission. In his proposal he described the importance of the Holland Marsh to the Greenbelt and in particular the Holland River which served as an early transportation route for his community. He has proposed to canoe the Holland River and create images which would bring attention to the present state of the river and to its historical importance. Over the past few weeks Keesic has been researching the history of this area and canoeing the river to start to formulate how he will approach this commission. Some of his working images are below.
– Pat Macaulay, Head of Visual Arts