From a Still Unquiet Place

Photo: of an art installation called From a Still Unquiet Place
Vancouver City Centre

From a Still Unquiet Place

By Meryl McMaster

Curated by Emmy Lee Wall, Capture Photography Festival

Meryl McMaster’s photography incorporates highly stylized, symbolically rich imagery that asks viewers to consider the relationships between heritage, history, land, and identity. This work comes from a series titled As Immense as the Sky, in which McMaster re-enacts patrimonial stories and often photographs herself performing as historical and mythological figures who are prominent in narratives related to each chosen location. Disentangling narrative is a central concern of this series, which sees McMaster highlighting tensions between what is visible and audible and what is otherwise present, for example, her ancestors.

In From a Still Unquiet Place, McMaster presents herself in the location of her father’s childhood home at Red Pheasant First Nation, Saskatchewan. Her head is obscured by a handcrafted headdress in a local military style. She is also wearing the tartan of her Scottish ancestors. In doing so, she evokes her complex ancestral identity while directing our attention to the history of tension and conflict on the land she traverses. Hanging off her back are lockets that hold collected images of her Indigenous and European ancestors. She rings vintage school bells that provoke her audience to consider Canada’s history of colonization and forced assimilation through the Canadian government’s administration of residential schools. The landscape depicted was once home to vast forests, the current lack of which points to complex histories of ownership, occupation, and use.

Presented in partnership with Capture Photography Festival and the Canada Line Public Art Program – InTransitBC

Image credit: Meryl McMaster, From A Still Unquiet Place, 2019. Courtesy of the Artist and Stephen Bulger Gallery and Pierre-François Ouellette art contemporain.