McMichael’s Sarah Milroy names Barry Ace work one of the best at Art Toronto 2021
A poignant work that speaks to the loss of Indigenous children stolen to never return from Canada’s residential school system, Ace’s installation at Central Art Garage’s project space has one amendment to its original design. With the troubling news this year of the uncovering of many mass graves, the face of a child’s doll, once hidden behind a veil of gauze, has been revealed. This tragic news was not a ‘discovering’ rather an ‘uncovering’ of what Indigenous people already knew and have been testifying to.
Under the gauze the doll has been secured in tikinagan, the cradle board that Anishinaabe and other Indigenous cultures carried their babies in. The nautical rope references the rope used for the tow boats that carried the children, including Ace’s relatives, to the boys and girls residential school in Spanish, Ontario from the island of Manitoulin. Entangled in the rope, spilling out unto the floor, are the mesh forms of children’s shoes. They are covered with Ace’s signature embellishment, electronic resistors and capacitors that reference medicine flowers seen in the beadwork of Great Lakes culture. As the Anishinaabemowin word for bead, manidoominens, translates as “little spirit berry”; each seed bead contains within the capacity to transmit spiritual healing.
Milroy notes that “it is a major work of Canadian Art” and that it is “complex and requires serious attention.”
The segment starts at 50:07 minutes (here)