I don't really read art magazines, but I always make sure to pick up the most recent copy of Galleries West when it's at the Federation Gallery and then I definitely read all the pictures! The work of Ruth Cuthand in the most recent issue really caught my eye and captured my imagination. Being very interested in First Nations art and culture I wasn't surprised to discover that she's an aboriginal artist whose work is deeply tied to her roots and experiences.
Sometimes an artist gets an idea that is so elegant that it wows me ... but not very often. After seeing the images I had to read more about Cuthand's Trading series. The artworks themselves are deceptively simple: images of microscopic viruses brought to Canada by European traders, created in glass beads on black suede board, with the name of the disease stencilled in white below.
In these hauntingly beautiful images Cuthand condenses with great eloquence the terrible exchange which saw glass beads traded for epidemics of disease, beauty for destruction, and in later times medical knowledge for cultural understanding.
Cuthand's art works for me on all levels: aesthetically surprising and beautiful, culturally/historically provocative and she uses media in an innovative and meaningful way. It's the full meal deal.
Cuthand's work can be seen at The MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina, Saskatchewan. More about the series here.