Shelley Niro

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Shelley Niro
Born 1954
Niagara Falls, New York
Nationality Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation

MFA University of Western Ontario

BFA Ontario College of Art
Known for Performance, installation, film

Shelley Niro (born 1954) is a Mohawk filmmaker and visual artist from New York and Ontario.[1] She is most noted for her photographs using herself and female family members cast in contemporary positions to challenge the stereotypes and cliches of Native American women.[2]


Shelley Niro was born in Niagara Falls, New York in 1954 and grew up on the Six Nations Reserve, near Brantford, Ontario, Canada. She is a member of the Turtle Clan. Niro graduated from the Ontario College of Art with a Bachelor of Fine Art degree in sculpture and painting. She earned her Masters of Fine Arts degree from the University of Western Ontario.[1]


Niro explored the oral history of the Iroquois people in general and the diaspora of Mohawk people in particular.[3] She is known for her photography,[4] which often combines portraits of contemporary Native women with traditional Mohawk imagery. She uses herself, friends, and family members as models. Her 1992 photographic series, This Land Is Mime Land and 500 Year Itch employ humorous pop culture references, such as Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe.[5] Niro Niro often works in diptychs and triptychs, using photographic processes such as photo montage, hand tints, and sepia tones. [2]

Shelly Niro is often compared to the artist Cindy Sherman because they both cast themselves in different roles in an attempt to break down various stereotypes. Niro, however never fully disguises herself. "She wants the viewer to recognize her within her manifestations."[2]

Film and video[edit]

Niro's first film was It Starts With a Whisper, which she co-directed with Anna Gronau in 1992. Other films include:

  • Kissed by Lightning (2009), producer, director [6][7]
  • The Flying Head (2008), director
  • The Shirt (2003), director; stars Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie[4]
  • Honey Moccasin (1998), director; stars Tantoo Cardinal[4]
  • Overweight with Crooked Teeth (1997), producer, director
  • It Starts with a Whisper (1993), producer, director[1][3]

Awards and recognition[edit]

The National Museum of American History named Niro a fellow in 1997. She won the Walking in Beauty Award for her 1992 production It Starts With a Whisper. [1] The film Honey Moccasin won Best Experimental Work at the Dreamspeakers Festival in Edmonton, Alberta and Best Feature, Best Actress, Best Actor and Best Director at the Red Earth Festival in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.[3] She was made a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.[8] Her short film The Shirt was presented at the 2003 Venice Biennale and the 2004 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, UT.[9] Niro was awarded a Governor General's Award in Visual and Media Arts in 2017.[10]


Niro lives with her husband in Brantford, Ontario.[4]


  1. ^ a b c d "Native Networks: Shelley Niro." Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. (retrieved 2 Dec 2010)
  2. ^ a b c Farris, Phoebe (1999). Women Artists of Color. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. pp. 53–56. ISBN 0-313-30374-6. 
  3. ^ a b c "Shelley Niro." Women Make Movies. (retrieved 2 Dec 2010)
  4. ^ a b c d Colón, Maria. "From Brantford, Ontario with Love." Native American Indigenous Cinema and Arts. Spring 2008 (retrieved 2 Dec 2010)
  5. ^ Ryan 78-9
  6. ^ Kissed by Lightning, review by An Onkwehonwe in Kanata"
  7. ^ Showing at the National Museum of the American Indian, Native Networks
  8. ^ "Members since 1880". Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. Retrieved 11 September 2013. 
  9. ^ "Shelley Niro". Retrieved 2016-03-05. 
  10. ^ Canada Council of the Arts. "Governor General's Awards in Visual and Media Arts: Shelley Niro". Retrieved 16 February 2017. 


  • Ryan, Allan J. The Trickster Shift: Humour and Irony in Contemporary Native Art. Victoria: University of British Columbia Press, 1999. ISBN 978-0-7748-0704-3.

External links[edit]