Kaia’tanó:ron Dumoulin Bush

Iakoterihwatié:ni / Moulin à paroles / Chatterbox

Curated by Sherry Farrell-Racette

October 30, 2021 - December 18, 2021

Listen to Chatting Boxes/ Bavardages: A conversation with the artist and curator Zoom https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/share/s5A4IXGnJqlcVHLYHb4cxBcLZugvWi2Gz2w0HGwwGhh3utTrczGB5yt58qUr1t2y.mDbf4jSb3x1Kj7S5

Kaia’tanó:ron Dumoulin Bush: The Visual Chatter of a Busy Mind
by Sherry Farrell Racette (curator)

Chatterbox: an excessively talkative person.

The term chatterbox has negative connotations often applied to chatty women (never men – why is that?). The stereotype of a women NOT being silent. Is she talking to drown out unwanted thoughts? To be seen? To be heard? What if chatter is a state of mind?

Kaia’tanó:ron Dumoulin Bush is quiet and soft-spoken. She is a storyteller and a dreamer, whose illustrative work includes paintings, sculpture, graphic novels, and commissioned art works related to language, youth and critical Indigenous issues. Her chatter is the frenetic thoughts that lie beneath a calm surface.

A group of well-worn sketchbooks hold her visual chatter- a dynamic inner dialogue of flowing lines, intense colour, and screaming faces. They are diaries, confessionals, and experiments. Everything flows from the sketchbooks. Ideas take form, shapes repeat, multiple versions are tested in small scale before they leap out to become three-dimensional objects, paintings, or graphic narratives. And all that pink. Kaia’tanó:ron gives us a literal explanation: Quebeçois mother (white) + Mohawk father (red) = Kaia’tanó:ron (pink). But this is not Toys ‘r Us pink, not Barbie pink, ballet pink, or candy pink. This pink is both violent and celebratory. It explodes off the surface. Wide-eyed pink women with shrieking mouths and multiple arms are recurring images. They are naked and vulnerable. Interspersed among the pages are quiet pencil drawings, delicate renderings of hands, and natural forms.

There are many influences at play here, not the least is a strong foundation of illustrative drawing from her time at Montreal’s Dawson College. While pursuing her BFA in the Indigenous Visual Culture Program at OCADU, Dumoulin-Bush participated in Toronto’s Nuit Blanche (2017) and initiated several curatorial projects. Her influences are primarily narrative artists whose works have a twist of ironic darkness: Joseph Sanchez, John Cuneo, Mu Pan, Lauren Marx, and Ruben Anton Komangapik. There is an aesthetic kinship with the growing number of Indigenous graphic artists: Walter Scott, Dianne Obomsawin, and particularly, Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, the originator of Haida manga. 

Kaia’tanó:ron’s personal narratives examine a life lived at intersections: Chateauguay/Kahnawake, French/Mohawk, and the tri-lingual complexities of Quebec. Her images are honest, raw and profoundly unromantic. They are saved from despair by vibrant colour, wry humour and a comic book aesthetic. There are recurring characters and motifs: the resilient pink woman (our hero), imps wreak havoc in her life, intestines become ribbons, circles of sweetgrass braids transform into hair, leaves and ropes alternately protecting and confining.

Beyond personal narrative, Dumoulin Bush responds to community events and historic trauma. In Doom Scrolling an anxious woman is overwhelmed by waves of bad news coming from the tiny phone in her hand. Obey! and God? speak back to the imposition of Christianity and challenge heroic colonial narratives that have been interwoven into our daily lives since childhood. John A. MacDonald’s Head recalls the toppling of a statue in the summer of 2020, and the artist encourages us to join in consuming his downfall. School Deskacknowledges the growing number of unmarked graves found at residential school sites across the country and honours acts of resistance.

For a quiet woman, Dumoulin Bush has a lot to say, and she will not be silenced. This is personal chatter responding to her world, but we can see ourselves in these images. The narratives are not closed. There are spaces for our stories, our experiences, our reactions. We see ourselves holding on in the midst of chaos, as we struggle to process the craziness of the present and the trauma of the past. And ultimately, share in the celebration of our collective resilience.

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