Destabilization: The Colour of Our Skin
Heidi McKenzie and Shantel Miller
- / James Gallery
Opening Reception: June 23 from 7:00-9:00 pm
Heidi McKenzie and Shantel Miller come together to present gestures of resistance and depict acts of survival as two women of colour who navigate their lived experiences on the margins of white-dominant patriarchal culture. McKenzie interrogates her mixed-race identity, as well as the fragility of her body and that of her immigrant father. The works are a testament to the hidden legacies of Indo-Caribbean indentureship; in the mid 19th and early 20th centuries her paternal ancestors were among those shipped from British India to replace and displace the emancipated Africans as the “new slaves.” These works graphically recount the stories of racialized intergenerational trauma. Miller pulls from personal narrative as a departure point for exploring notions of interiority and spectatorship in Black female subjectivity. Through an acute sense of touch, her paintings employ color symbolically to suggest a psychological space the figures inhabit and uses body language as a tool for distinguishing hierarchies between self and others by depicting the Black body confronting the viewer in varying skin tones of browns and greys. Each artists’ aesthetic narratives operate on both the deeply personal – through self-portraiture, abstract or figurative – as well as the universal, by validating brown bodies through archival practices of touching and whispering wisdom through familial legacy.
about the artists:
Heidi McKenzie is a Toronto-based ceramic artist. She graduated from Sheridan College in 2012 and subsequently completed her MFA in Curatorial Practice and Art Criticism at OCADU in 2014. Heidi’s work seeks to reinvigorate modernism through abstraction and engages issues of race, identity, ancestry, migration and archive, as well as body and healing. Heidi is the recipient of numerous awards, including Emerging Artist Award at Toronto Artists Project (2011), Craft Ontario Awards (2017/2019), Best in Show Ontario Artists Association (2015), Best in Show, Toronto Potters Biennial at the Gardiner Museum (2021). Heidi has worked as an artist in residence in Denmark (2014), Hungary (2018), Indonesia (2013), Australia (2017) and Canada (2019). She serves on the Board of Directors of the National Council on the Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA).
Shantel Miller is a Jamaican-Canadian visual artist whose interdisciplinary practice incorporates drawing, painting, printmaking and photography to communicate complexities of the human condition. In 2021, Shantel graduated from Boston University with an MFA in Painting and received the Dedalus Foundation Fellowship in Sculpture and Painting, the Ester B. Khan Award and the Elizabeth Greenshields Award. Her artwork has been acquired by private collections around the world and she has participated in numerous group shows, residencies and art fairs in North America including the Nia Center for the Arts Artist-in-Residence Program, the Converging Liberations Residency at Mass MoCA, NADA Miami and Future Fair in NYC. Shantel is the recent recipient of the Ujima Boston Project’s 2022-2024 Artist Fellow where she currently lives and works in Boston, Massachusetts.