Rosalie Favell Faces the Camera
Rosalie Favell is having a moment! On September 16th she was in New York for the opening of HIDE, Part 2, which features her series, Facing the Camera (2008-present) a growing collection of portraits of Indigenous artists and curators. The following week she was in Washington, DC at NMAI for the opening of Vantage Point: The Contemporary Native Art Collection, organized by Rebecca Trautmann, which features one of Favell's potent self-portraits titled “If only you could love me…” (2003): two very different approaches to portraiture by the Métis artist from Winnipeg.
“If only you could love me…” (above) is from the series, Plain(s) Warrior Artist (1999-2003) which draws heavily from pop culture, placing her likeness within scenes from movies and television shows such as Zena: Warrior Princess and Star Trek, as well as seamlessly blending historic and family photos. Each work is a personal comment on some aspect of her identity or biography. Those of you familiar with Western art might recognize that this work is a re-interpretation of Frida Kahlo’s haunting, Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair (1940) painted after her stormy divorce from Diego Rivera. Like Kahlo’s painting, Favell’s portrait is one of anguish and despondency; both show themselves surrounded by their shorn hair, dressed in men’s suit, and looking unwaveringly at the viewer. But while they both reflect on a lover’s rejection, Favell’s also explicitly references her own struggles with gender identity.
Left: Candace Hopkins (2008), from Facing the Camera. Right: NMAI Curator Paul Chaat Smith poses for Favell during her visit to DC.
With the recent series, Facing the Camera, she has instead turned her lens towards her friends and colleagues in the arts community. Like many Native photographers in Canada, Favell has begun an ambitious project which uses this geographically and culturally diverse, but intimate group, as the subject of her most recent work. The portraits in and of themselves may not seem that remarkable at first. Instead of using complex,digital montages like her earlier work, these simple black and white images, shot with film on a 6 x 7 format camera, are rather straightforward portraits. The subjects are relaxed and friendly, with no one dressed in their finest regalia, but shown simply and purposefully. Quietly radical, this work is a portrait of an arts community with no pretense. This art tribe is not limited to Canada, but includes international Indigenous artists as well. How lucky we were then that she took the opportunity to expand the series to several of us here, “south of the border,” in the United States, during her recent visit?
Vantage Point artists (L to R): Truman Lowe, Mario Martinez, Rosalie Favell, Carlos Jacanamijoy, Alan Michelson, Emmi Whitehorse, Marie Watt, Rick Bartow, Nora Naranjo-Morse. 10 of the 25 participainting artists attended the reception in DC.