Dana Claxton wants to change the way you think about indigenous women

The Vancouver-based artist explores images of indigenous women in new exhibition

A still from Uplifting, a digital video by Dana Claxton appearing in Made to Be Ready, the artist's new exhibition at Vancouver's Audain Gallery. (Dana Claxton)

Leah Collins · CBC ArtsJanuary 14, 2016

"When people think of indigenous women, what do they see? What's the stereotype?" It's a question Dana Claxton often asks her students at the University of British Columbia, where the multi-disciplinary visual artist is an associate professor in the department of art history, visual art and theory.
"I'll tell them I don't want to know the answer, you just think about what yours is," Claxton tells CBC Arts.
Since the early '90s, Claxton has encouraged people well beyond her classroom to consider these ideas through her practice in film, video, photography and performance art, work that's part of collections including the Vancouver Art Gallery and the National Gallery of Canada.
Baby Girlz Gotta Mustang, a lightjet C-print photograph by Dana Claxton. From Mustang Suite. (Dana Claxton/Winsor Gallery)

Claxton hails from Saskatchewan's Lakota First Nations-Wood Mountain reserve, and is now based in Vancouver. Through her art, she explores themes of beauty and representation, especially as related to indigenous people. Made to Be Ready, her latest exhibition — appearing atVancouver's Audain Gallery to March 12 — follows the themes of much of her oeuvre, whether that means the playful Indian Candy, which took over billboards in seven Canadian cities as part of the 2014 Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, or The Mustang Suite, vibrant portraits that merge western and indigenous aesthetics with a touch of irony.
"Indigenous people have been structurally dehumanized in all facets of life in North America, whether it's through education, through the state, through the church," says Claxton. "In some ways, my work has attempted to show us as human beings."