Forest I, forest person 

A contemporary take on colonization, urban sprawl and the concept of trash at the SLCC


Visitors to the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre have been able to admire the collection of traditional Lil'wat and Squamish canoes, each made from a single old-growth cedar. But a newer, slightly more modern mode of transportation has taken up residence in the SLCC: a 1956 Nash Metropolitan.

This isn't your conventional vintage vehicle, though. The full-sized automobile has been entirely covered in plaited cedar bark, which was salvaged from urban forests that were cut for condo developments. It's adorned with wool-woven motifs, while the interior has been decoupaged and reupholstered. An artistic statement, if you will, that begs observers to reflect on the way we live in our shared environments.

"Everything's always evolving, and different projects start another one and another one: they're all linked," said annie ross, the artist behind the impressive piece, dubbed Forest Person.

ross chooses to spell her name in lowercase: "The short answer is I don't like how people use artificial barriers to create distance between ourselves as human beings. Wealth, or status, or race, or religion, or ethnicity, or degrees, titles: I hate all of that! They're artificial and they're, many times, meaningless, in the grand scheme of things. But people use them and they beat other people over the head with them. I don't like it, and I reject that, and I don't let anyone call me 'Doctor' or 'Professor' - it's just 'annie.'"

She is on faculty at Simon Fraser University's First Nations Studies program, teaching a range of courses, including the General Introduction to First Nations for first-year students, as well as a variety of research, visual arts and discourse classes. These include printmaking and indigenous poetry and poetics, environmental justice with a hands-on bookmaking component, and a technologies course that examines ecosystem viability and crafts.

Originally from South Central Los Angeles, ross's mother was a full-blooded Maya and her paternal genealogical line is Cherokee, unenrolled. She has worked with First Nations across North America since the early '80s, when she began doing oral history work.

"What was interesting to me was how easy it was and is to go into other Aboriginal communities; so many of these things are generally the same."

ross began basket weaving and exploring other traditional art forms as a child.

"Growing up, before I was in kindergarten, my sisters and I were embroidering and weaving and drawing," she recalled. Storytelling was also a huge aspect of her childhood, which has informed her own writing and poetry.

"I just assumed that everyone did that, and maybe there was a time when they did! We were just the so-called 'primitives,' people hanging on to stuff like that.


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