|Nationality||Cree, Tsimshian, Gitxsan, Métis|
|Known for||Performance art, songwriting, and video art|
Skeena Reece (born 1974) is a Canadian First Nations artist of Cree, Tsimshian, Gitksan, and Métis descent whose multi-disciplinary practice includes such genres as performance art, "sacred clowning," songwriting, and video art.
Skeena Reece was born in 1974 to Red Power movement activist Cleo Reece and internationally renowned carver Victor Reece. She studied at Northwest Community College and later at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design for media arts. She has been working in the arts since 1996 and currently is based out of Vancouver Island. She has also worked in administrative capacities such as the grunt gallery as a curatorial practices intern, founder of the Native Youth Artists Collective, and was Director of the Indigenous Media Arts Group from 2005 to 2007.
“I wanted to create this thing that was spiritually intangible and could only be seen as something if you were here right now. And nobody can take it, or even think about it or write about it or read about it later, you’ve kinda gotta be in it. It was just so magical I was like ‘that’s enough. It doesn’t have to go anywhere from here.” - Skeena Reece, 2012
Reece is known for making works that deal with issues surrounding settler colonialism and its consequences on Indigenous peoples, especially women. Often these works unsettle and challenge their audiences. She also closely aligns herself and her artistic practice with the figure of the “sacred clown”, a Hopi Indian figure who teaches lessons in uncouth ways. As well, she bases her work on trickster figures such as Coyote and Raven, who is seen as both a prankster, but also as wise. For example, in her performance, Raven on the Colonial Fleet (2010), she “wears a corset, skirt and blanket designed with reference to traditional Northwest Coast Aboriginal Art and a feathered headdress referencing the Plains cultures.” Reece uses such regalia to make a political statement and to overturn Indigenous gender roles, for example by wearing a headdress that is usually reserved for men. Images of grenades, arms, and mythological figures cover her clothing to represent her as a “fe/male warrior” and as a mythological figure, like Raven, coming to help fight against colonial violence. In 2010, she also performed this piece at the 17th Biennale in Sydney, Australia. As well, in a 2008 performance for the National Museum of the American Indian based on an episode of the television show, Moesha, she dressed up as a nurse and asked the audience, "Does anyone want to share any feelings you have about being a colonizer?" She proceeded to have another artist bring out a bucket of red paint in which he begins to paint “one of Columbus's ships on a large board as Reece speaks about sexual fetishes, fear of government and the inaccurate portrayal of Indians on television.” Reece saw this “as a metaphor for white people taking the blood of her people and painting their own history of them.” One song in her album Sweetgrass and Honey was created to honor carvers like her father and the Nuu-chah-nulth carver John T. Williams in Seattle that was shot by a police officer.
On these issues, her work also deals with the act of caring and reconciliation. Such themes can be seen in her work Touch Me (2013), a video work made specifically for the 2013 exhibition, Witnesses: Art and Canada’s Indian Residential Schools. The fourteen minute video consists of Reece bathing Ukrainian-Canadian artist Sandra Semchuk. In the video, Reece washes Semchuk with a soap and cloth. Semchuk begins to tear up as Reece says “It’s okay, it’s okay.” The film is influenced by her distant relationship with her parents, who were both Canadian Residential School survivors. The film is meant to be an act of reconnection between mother and daughter, child and elder, “wanting to create a space in which touch, intimacy, and connection were animated, as well as a desire to perform a nurturing and loving act of bathing an elder inspired Reece to create this performance.” She also starred in a prominent role in the short film "Savage" about residential schools, along with Ta’kaiya Blaney, Doug Blamey, and Jennifer Jackson. The video won several awards including 2010 Genie award for Best Short Film, a Golden Sheaf Award for Best Multicultural Film, the ReelWorld Outstanding Canadian Short Film, and the Leo Awards for Best Actress and Best Editing. Recently, she has also made adult-sized moss bags, similar to swaddle bags meant to carry babies. They are meant to symbolize the care that families and communities give to new members and they are also a reminder that we always need care in our lives.
Exhibitions and Performances
- Witnesses: Art and Canada’s Indian Residential Schools, Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, 2013
- BEAT NATION: Art, Hip Hop and Aboriginal Culture, Vancouver Art Gallery, 2012
- “Like a Boss,” The Power Plant, Toronto, 2012
- “Acting Out, Claiming Space,” Modern Fuel, Kingston, 2011
- “The Beauty of Distance: Songs of Survival in a Precarious Age,” 17th Biennale of Sydney, 2010
- "Please Do Not Disturb," Nuit Blanche, Toronto, 2009
- “Vampyre Love Ball,” LIVE Biennale, Vancouver, 2009
- UBC Museum of Anthropology, 2008
- “It’s not TV, It’s Indians!”, National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, DC, 2008
- REVEAL: Indigenous Arts Award, 2017
- VIVA Award, 2014
- BC Creative Achievement Award for First Nations Art, 2012
- gallery, grunt. "The Medicine Project | Skeena Reece". www.themedicineproject.com. Retrieved 2018-03-10.
- Tyner, Jana, Keith Wallace, and Scott Watson, ed. (2013). Witnesses: Art and Canada’s Indian Residential Schools. Vancouver: Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery at the University of British Columbia. p. 63.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
- "10 Artists Who Are Taking Care". Canadian Art. Retrieved 2018-03-10.
- "Decoy Magazine". Decoy Magazine. Retrieved 2018-03-10.
- Dowell, Kristin (Spring 2017). "Residential Schools and "Reconciliation" in the Media Art of Skeena Reece and Lisa Jackson". Studies in American Indian Literatures. 29 (1): 123.
- Ritter, Kathleen and Tania Willard (2012). Beat Nation: Art, Hip-hop and Aboriginal Culture. Vancouver: Vancouver Art Gallery.
- Sözen, Gizem (2010). "Skeena Reece's Regalia in Her Performance "Raven: On the Colonial Fleet"" (PDF).
- Beckman, Rachel (2008-11-06). "Needled by Performance Art". ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2018-03-11.
- "Skeena Reece - RPM.fm". rpm.fm. Retrieved 2018-03-12.