As a viewer informed by Western art history, it’s hard not to think of Joseph Beuys when presented with grey industrial felt in an art gallery. But, Maria Hupfield puts a crack in that canon with her approach to this material. When asked about her work’s relationship to Beuys, her reply was refreshingly nonchalant in its dismissal. She’s not interested in the myth-making at the root of Beuys practice. As a woman, as Anishnaabe growing up in rural Canada, her work draws on Indigenous traditions, personal history and very real experience.
However, within the white walls, I can’t help but draw comparisons. Whether with intent or not, Hupfield brings new meaning to THE felt suit with her Snow Suit and Jingle Spiral, a ceremonial garment made to be activated though movement. Hupfield claims this heavily-coded material for herself and, in so doing, offers a welcome transgression to Western tradition. She challenges us to question whose story is the grand narrative that is art history.KW