Judith Norris | Between the Lines: Digitized Dialects and Encoded Traditions


Armed with both a formal Eurocentric and Traditional First Nations arts education, the Edmonton born Cree artist, Jude Norris seamlessly combines modern technology with traditional First Nations culture to create provocative works which question the contradictions of living as an indigenous person in a contemporary colonial environment.\

Jude's deep involvement with Plains Cree culture has always played a fundamental role in her creative practice. Through her ongoing exploration of themes, materials and traditional art forms, Jude's work juxtaposes the traditional with the technical and/or cultural reference. This layering and multiplicity of content and perspective is a basal quality of her work. This is a characteristic of her Cree heritage, and it is traditionally common for one seemingly simple object or image to contain a wealth of information beyond that which is readily apparent at first viewing.

The artist isolates and repositions naturally growing and/or culturally common objects as a means of emphasizing both their formal and metaphorical qualities. She uses diverse media such as antler, binary code, medicinal plants, deconstructed telecommunications cable, roots, rubber and video projection. These metaphoric juxtapositions often incorporate 'translations' of Cree dialect and concept, both literally and symbolically. The materials reflect her traditional connections with First Nations' art but the pieces themselves follow contemporary art practices. The artist declares, "I collaborate with objects and images gathered from the land and animals, and reposition them in 'art world' contexts that emphasize their physical beauty, but also poke quiet but serious 'fun' at their misplacement." 

She combines objects which are symbolically, directly and/or stereotypically connected with Native American culture with elements of euro-centric creative practice. Furthermore, she incorporates Plains Cree with English language to reflect the disparate paradigms of aural and literary based cultures. All of these elements become devices that investigate both the positive and negative situations and ultimately the potential of cross-cultural communications and evolution.

These visually potent, idiosyncratic and often wry combinations contain pluralistic expression which mirror, critique, subvert, and celebrate various aspects contemporary colonial reality and multi-cultural interaction. However challenging Jude's work is, it's important that instinct, continuation, (subtle) humour and celebration remain fundamental elements of her practice. She strives to make contemporary objects that become more then the sim of their parts, and whose physical presence can create a deep impact, speaking ion multi-layered tongues and touching a place beyond consciousness through their own 'Good Medicine'.

Currently dividing her time between Toronto and New York, Jude Norris's connections to this region are long standing. This is the first of two exhibitions she will have in the Okanagan Valley over the next year with an exhibition scheduled for at the Alternator Gallery in Kelowna in 2009. Jude studied integrated media at the Ontario College of Art & Design on Toronto and art at the Middlesex University and Kensington and Chelsea College, in London, England. Regarded as one of Canada's leading contemporary aboriginal artists, her work has been exhibited extensively across Canada internationally.