Renwick’s lens captures native identity

Kitimatian Arthur Renwick could spend eight straight hours drawing a leather jacket. The lines so crisp, the shading so perfect, someone could almost reach in and pick it off the page. It was award-winning super-realism.

Arthur Renwick’s photographs will be on exhibition inside the O Zone celebration site during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games. Photo by Matthew Hoekstra

Kitimatian Arthur Renwick could spend eight straight hours drawing a leather jacket. The lines so crisp, the shading so perfect, someone could almost reach in and pick it off the page. It was award-winning super-realism.

Then he had an epiphany. “I thought, why don’t I just take a f—ing picture?”

Marshall McLuhan be damned, for Renwick the message was more important than the medium. He switched his major at Emily Carr to photography and completed a master’s degree in fine arts at Concordia University, specializing in photography.

His work has largely centred on First Nations people, their history and heritage, without ignoring important identity issues and the accompanying politics.

Last year, he set out to create an impressive photographic portrait series that faces First Nations’ identity head on.

Opening last month at Richmond Art Gallery, Mask is 16 larger-than-life portraits of First Nations people making faces at Renwick’s Hasselblad lens.

“When you stand close to them they actually have this interesting effect where they become very confrontational, they become intimidating,” said Renwick, 44. “It’s hard to stand close to them for a long period of time because they’re unblinkingly staring at you constantly.”

Offering inspiration for Renwick’s project was Edward S. Curtis’s The North American Indian, a collection of early photographs of American Indian culture that continue to influence the image of Indians in popular culture today.

At the same time, his brother started successfully selling carved masks and Renwick pondered the relationship between the mask, the lens and a history of First Nations. Before snapping the portraits for the exhibition, he asked his subjects to gesture towards that history.

Identity is something Renwick struggled with himself growing up in Kitimat, spending part of his time on the reserve. He grew up close to his brother—they were a year apart—and had different fathers. Renwick’s being Scottish and his brother’s being native, they were treated differently.

“Everywhere we went, I was allowed to walk through the door, he wasn’t, because of the way he looked, in certain situations.”

Today, Renwick lives in Toronto and teaches at the University of Guelph. He returns to Kitimat each summer to visit family and friends.

Just Posted

Student rangers sought for Terrace

Young adults interested in student ranger program have until Feb. 24 to apply

Skeena Sawmills audit good overall, but fault found in tree planting

Violation only issue discovered in Forest Practices Board report

DoK delays third reading of TSW land rezoning

Decision on hold until another public hearing is held

Is Terrace prepared for a rail disaster?

Council asked to review surge in dangerous goods movement: “I live in the blast zone,” says resident

Woman killed in head-on crash near Vanderhoof

RCMP say driver crossed the centre line and hit a loaded fuel tanker truck

VIDEO: U.S. Congress to probe whether Trump told lawyer Cohen to lie

At issue is a BuzzFeed News report that about negotiations over a Moscow real estate project

Charges upgraded against mother of murdered B.C. girl

Kerryann Lewis now faces first- rather than second-degree murder in the death of Aaliyah Rosa.

UPDATE: Injured firefighter in stable condition

Kelowna fire crews responded to a blaze at Pope’sGallery of BC Art & Photography on Friday

Rare ‘super blood wolf moon’ takes to the skies this Sunday

Celestial event happens only three times this century

Arrest made after historic B.C. church hit by arson

The fire at the 150-year-old Murray United Church in Merritt was considered a possible hate crime

B.C. dangerous offender in court for violating no-contact order, sends letter to victim

Wayne Belleville was shocked to see a letter addressed to him from his shooter, Ronald Teneycke

Man blames his loud car radio, sirens for crash with B.C. ambulance

Tribunal rejects bid to recoup ICBC costs after crash deemed 100-per-cent his fault

RECALL: Salmon Village maple salmon nuggets

Customers warned not to eat product due to possible Listeria contamination

More than 100,000 toxic toys named in Canada-wide recall

Plastic doll contains levels of phthalates over allowable limit and may pose chemical hazard

Most Read