photos: Lindsay Delaronde, Victoria's first Indigenous Artist in Residence.

Meet Victoria’s first-ever Indigenous Artist in Residence

Arts Profile: Body politics, femininity, and sexuality are some of the underlying themes of Lindsay Delaronde’s work.

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By Shayna Kuffert
Photos courtesy of the City of Victoria

Lindsay Delaronde’s acceptance into the Indigenous Artist in Residence position came at a difficult time in her life, with an unclear vision of where the residency would take her. Yet her artwork’s trajectory has been one of healing—for not only herself but her community as well.

The Mohawk artist was born and raised in the Kahnawake community in the province of Quebec. Now, she’s the first Indigenous Artist in Residence for the City of Victoria. City council created the position in 2016.

The city wanted to develop the Indigenous Artist in Residence program as part of the Year of Reconciliation in 2017. The purpose: to build awareness that Victoria is located within the traditional territory of the Lekwungen people, who are represented today by the Esquimalt and Songhees Nations, according to Connor Buchanan, the city’s arts, culture and events liaison.

“Lindsay is a strong advocate for Indigenous voices, stories, culture, and history,” says Buchanan. Delaronde’s role entails engaging in conversations and activities that align with reconciliation, without a prescribed theme or medium for the residency. That means the artist will be able to shape the position based on her practice.

Blank canvas
Delaronde grew up on the Kahnawake reservation where she lived for almost 20 years, and at a young age was already interested in materials, process, and art itself. She said it was her art teacher in Montreal who helped foster her creativity and create a portfolio that facilitated her acceptance at Dawson College where she attended for two years before transferring to Emily Carr. In 2007, Delaronde moved to Vancouver Island and began her Masters in Fine Arts at the University of Victoria.

When I asked Lindsay the typical question one asks an artist: “Why art?” she described it as a question that is constantly changing.

“I was just born an artist,” says Delaronde “I don’t know how else to explain it, there’s nothing else that I ever wanted to do.”

“I want to push traditional values and how they merge into contemporary society, but the middle ground between society today and traditional values is where I create artwork from, from that spark,” she says.

Delaronde’s art is about identity, which is integral to her interpretations of the virtues of culture, ways of culture, and connectivity. She is interested in the contemporary evolution of traditional art. Especially the examination of how traditional values can guide art; creating framework, structure, and process that is grounded in culture and ritual. “My worldview is an Indigenous worldview, so the way I create artwork is very much like that.”

A healing medium
The art that Delaronde creates is often centered on providing opportunities for collaboration and engagement.

When she applied to the residency she was interested in embodiment and conveying messages through the power of voice, gesture, and collaboration.

“My work is about healing, addressing wounds, and using that material to reintegrate—and integration and narrative are about performance,” she says.

Delaronde plans to use the residency to work collaboratively with other artists and community. She intends to create performance pieces that give agency, while activating the body and memory. Even though she is new to performance art she is open to explore the legacy of the traditional concept of performance pieces in Indigenous culture as well as the legacy of other performance artists who have paved the road.

“I am just a small part of the story,” says Delaronde “Indigenous narratives are happening in Canada and emerging through the arts and I am just one small, little voice. So my capacity to bring people together expands the narrative.”

Body politics, femininity, and sexuality are some of the underlying themes of Delaronde’s work, but most importantly she uses her practice, artwork, process, and materials to address the internal landscapes of a human being. With a background in clinical psychology, Delaronde sees the ability of art to calm nerves, and to bring individuals back into the here and now.

“We have been tainted through the colonial history around our distorted perceptions of self, but we have to tell the truth of our lives, of our history, and people,” Delaronde says “and that’s where we’re at culturally, historically, and consciously.”

Art as a platform
Through this engagement, Delaronde creates space and creates a community in her art practice that responds to the needs of a community. “I examine where the voids are and where I can be of service in the community, and that is fundamentally what my artwork is about.”

Delaronde’s performance pieces and process is focused on collaboration, and her position as Indigenous Artist in Residence will bring all of this together, using art to capture and document community.

“My artwork is to provide and to give voice to other people and opportunity for agency, self determination, self expression and to build community,” she says.

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