The former Pentecostal church-turned-gallery located at 72 Perth Avenue, in Toronto, is a pop-up gallery housing works for the Toronto Biennial of Art, 2022. The high windows project beautiful lighting into the space. An array of brightly coloured artworks done by different artists, of different backgrounds, are perched inside and they welcome the windows’ filtered sunlight, bouncing back the artists’ intentions at the visiting patrons.
Amongst the conceptual art, tapestries, and other sculptures, in the center of the space, is Brooklyn-based, Choctaw-Cherokee, interdisciplinary artist Jeffrey Gibson’s work. His multi-textural sculpture: SPEAK TO ME IN YOUR WAY SO THAT I CAN HEAR YOU (2015) is composed of multiple textures such as driftwood, beads, wool and acrylic, to name a few.
SPEAK TO ME IN YOUR WAY SO THAT I CAN HEAR YOU is shaped like a walking-being, the ethereal naturalistic sculpture is a base of beige driftwood. There are hardwares shaped like bells that form triangles in between the wool strings. The different coloured knitting wool dangles, slanted, downwards from his sculpture. The entire multi-faceted work is ornate, atop the structure is a ceramic head. Wielding gorgeous pigments of blue, pink, orange and gray, as colour to the unsettling hallowed out, gaping head.
The gallery is converted from a Western religion church. Particularly poignant as now the space invites even more conversation of the realities of genocide against Indigenous people within the now colonized country we have come to know as Canada. The sculpture itself creates a conversation about the erased language of Indigenous folks. Down the backside, embroidered in beads, reads “SPEAK TO ME IN YOUR WAY.” Gibsons’ materials all reference the material histories within his Indigenous practices and culture. If Gibson is not using found driftwood, he also uses found tipi poles.
In addition to his material work creating conversation with histories rooted in Indigenous culture, his sculpture aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of Reduced Inequalities. As we collectively work towards making the world a more inclusive place for those who have been discriminated against, the month of June in Toronto has been declared the National Indigenous Peoples Month. Although this is just the beginning, it is important to have these conversations consistently no matter the month. The sculpture is both historically important and undeniably well made.
In addition to Gibson’s work being located at 72 Perth, it is also on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Toronto.