When the government spotlights Indigenous creators internationally, it too often obscures the realities of colonialism at home. Why Maria Hupfield’s work goes beyond all that.

On a crisp September Tuesday evening in Paris, Maria Hupfield, a Wasauksing First Nation performing artist from Brooklyn, New York by way of Parry Sound, Ontario, is making her place in the atrium of the Canadian Cultural Centre. Or, at least, that’s one way of interpreting what she’s up to at the international opening of her first major travelling solo exhibition.

Hupfield is hard to read. She makes works like Snowmobile Suit for the Hudson (2013), a Ski–Doo outfit complete with Sorel boots, mitts, and a helmet that are fashioned from grey industrial felt. Then she performs with them, adding meaning and experience (and value to collectors) beyond the object’s materiality. For her globe–trotting performances, the forty–three–year–old York University–trained artist has wandered through the deciduous grasses of Santa Fe’s brittle arroyos and assembled a full–size, felt Anishinaabe hunting canoe while in Venice, Italy. Resisting the Western tendency to essentialize Indigenous art, Hupfield’s practice is dynamic and multidimensional. Her work refuses to be captured by categorization.

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