found cowboy boots, capacitors, resistors, light-emitting diodes, glass beads, tin cones, red heart trade beads, synthetic hair and coated wire, 2017
14 1/2 x 5 1/2 x 52 in 36.8 x 14 x 132.1 cm
Collection of the Artist
Queer Landscapes / Queer Intersections, John B. Aird Gallery, 2017, reproduced page 8
John B. Aird Gallery, Toronto, Queer Landscapes / Queer Intersections, May 30 - June 23, 2017
Carleton University Art Gallery, Ottawa, To Be Continued: Troubling the Queer Archive at CUAG, September 24 - December 12, 2020
Art Toronto, Metro Toronto Convention Centre, October 29 - 30, 2021
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, The Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts 2022 Exhibition curated by Gerald McMaster, October 13, 2022 - January 29, 2023
These attention grabbing boots are a conversation starter. Painted with a celebratory palette and baroque in their lavish ornamentation, they are embellished with digital bling painstakingly applied by the artist by piercing with an awl into the hard leather of the vintage boots. Ceramic capacitors, resistors and light-emitting diodes make up the design based on the traditional floral motifs of the Great Lakes material culture whose beadwork referenced the medicinal flowers and plants. Extended off of the calf of the boots are telecommunication wires, referencing “traildusters”, moccasins that had animal fur, such as foxtails, attached to the back in order to sweep away traces of the wearer's footsteps during enemy pursuit or during ceremonies.
Created in 2017, Erased builds on the footwear series that Barry Ace began in 2006. For the initial pair, he used his own patent leather Kenneth Cole Reaction dress shoes. Titled Reaction, the shoes were exhibited as part of Changing Hands 3: Art Without Reservation at the Museum of Art and Design in New York City, then toured as part of the Native Fashion Now exhibition, with locations that included the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI). Nigik Makizinan (2015), in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada, was exhibited in Àbadakone / Continuous Fire / Feu continuel, the NGC’s 2019 survey show of International and contemporary Indigenous art. Most recently, Fox Tail Moccasins (2016) was acquired by the McMichael Canadian Art Collection and Efface (2017) by a private collector.
As an Indigenous artist, Ace’s series of footwear assemblages demonstrate how cultural continuance is driven through material and aesthetic innovation. Their futuristic quality underscores the concept of Indigenous survivance, the portmanteau of survival and endurance. Ace creates footwear fit for a journey that requires foresight, while also bringing along relevant and life sustaining knowledge from the past.
The cowboy boots were sourced at Housing Works, a second hand shop in Hell's Kitchen, while Ace was in New York City for the opening of Native Fashion Now. Founded in the 1990s, Housing Works is an organization whose “mission is to end the dual crises of homelessness and AIDS through relentless advocacy, the provision of lifesaving services, and entrepreneurial businesses that sustain our efforts.” (1) Proceeds from the shop go directly to their programming and services. Another driver for Ace is AIDS / HIV advocacy. Like other gay men of the era, he witnessed the AIDS pandemic wipe out a generation of young men. Governments failed to acknowledge the urgency. At the time, with regards to funding for effective treatment, public awareness, or support programs for those infected, there was no expediency as the gay community was stigmatized. Coming of age in the 1980s, Ace was living in Toronto during the time of the evolving Queen Street West art scene, and encountered Michael Snow, Joyce Weiland and others. The Toronto scene also included General Idea, whose iconic public art sculpture AIDS (1987) reworked Robert Indiana’s 1964 LOVE sculpture as a response to the pandemic. At a critical moment, Ace saw how art activism could be used as a strategy to promote dialogue around controversial issues.
The exhibition history of Erased includes John B. Aird Gallery in Toronto for Queer Landscapes / Queer Intersections in 2017, To Be Continued: Troubling the Queer Archive at Carleton University Art Gallery in Ottawa from 2019 - 2020, Art Toronto 2021, and will be included in the Governor General’s Award Media Arts Exhibition Fall 2022 at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Curated by Gerald McMaster, this exhibition will position Erased in proximity to General Idea’s retrospective exhibition at the NGC; Erased drives the point home that AIDS continues to be an important issue and that the gay community continues to be marginalized.
We thank Leah Snyder, digital designer and writer, The L.Project, for contributing the following essays. Snyder writes about culture, technology and contemporary art, and is a contributor to the National Gallery of Canada’s Gallery magazine and other Canadian art and architecture publications.
All quotes attributed to the artist unless otherwise noted.
This work is accompanied by a letter of authenticity and provenance signed by the artist.
This work is currently included in the Governor General’s Award in Media Arts Exhibition curated by Gerald McMaster at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, October 13, 2022 - January 29, 2023.
The Artist's and Heffel's entire sale proceeds from this work will benefit Bruce House in Ottawa. Bruce House brings hope, housing and support to individuals and families impacted by HIV in Ottawa and area.
Available for viewing at: Heffel Montreal
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