Jeff Thomas | Resistance Is NOT Futile

1 December 2012 - 19 January 2013

Opening Reception: Saturday, December 1, 2012 2-5pm

Artist Talk: Saturday, December 1, 1pm

Exhibition Dates: December 1, 2012 – January 19, 2013


The gallery is pleased to present our second solo exhibition by Ottawa-based artist Jeff Thomas, which will feature his new series “Resistance is NOT Futile.”


The work of American photographer Edward S. Curtis, particularly his seminal work The North American Indian, has been the focal point for this project. Thomas does not recreate a modern version of Curtis’ study of tribal culture, but considers what he did not photograph as a stepping stone to this new body of work. Thomas’ work engages the people he photographed, yet breaks through the seeming stasis of Curtis’ photographs by constructing a post-colonial conversation on Indianness.


Thomas (b. 1956; Buffalo, USA) is a self-taught photo-based artist and curator whose career in the visual arts began in 1979, following a life-changing car accident. He turned to an already-existing interest in photography in order to begin a new life and focused on confronting photo-based stereotypes of Indigenous people. His research into photographic history pointed out two significant absences: images of Indigenous people living in cities and images produced by Indigenous people. Thomas was frustrated by these absences and the silences they engendered and began to challenge these silences by creating new conversations through his photo-based work.


As an independent curator, Thomas’ specialty is the exploration of historical cultural resources to bring voices, stories and perspectives into the present. In his curatorial

projects, such as “Where are the Children: Healing the Legacy of Residential Schools” and “Emergence From the Shadow: First Peoples' Photographic Perspectives” at the Canadian Museum of Civilization and “Aboriginal Portraits” at the National Archives of Canada, Thomas mined the archival vaults of non-Native visual and written records to recover lost elements of the history of Indigenous people.


Thomas’ work would eventually lead him to self-identify as an urban-Iroquois – someone who was born in Buffalo, New York, and is also an enrolled member of the Six Nations reserve in Ontario. Finding a balance between the Iroquois identity that his elders at Six Nations instilled in him and surviving as an Indian in the city lead him to weave a new story from the fragmented cultural elements left in the wake of North American colonialism.


His work has been exhibited by major institutions around the world and can be found in many important private and public collections including: Bank of Montreal, Toronto; Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, Ottawa; Canadian Museum of Civilization, Quebec; Indian Art Centre, Ottawa; Kamloops Art Gallery, Kamloops; MacLaren Art Centre, Barrie; Art Gallery of Winnipeg, Winnipeg; Museum of the American Indian, Washington; Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne; Museum der Weltkulturen, Frankfurt; National Archives of Canada, Ottawa; Oakville Galleries, Oakville; British Museum, London; Canada Council Art Bank, Ottawa; Ottawa Art Gallery, Ottawa; University of Toronto Art Centre Gallery, Toronto; amongst many others.