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New Hirt collection explores Indigenous-settler interactions

Show opened September 13 at Gage Gallery

In her new collection entitled Storied Bodies, Victoria artist Gabriela Hirt explores Indigenous-settler relations by telling visual stories of human forms interacting with each other.

Themes of isolation and connection are central to Hirt’s work. The artist—an immigrant who grew up in post-Holocaust Germany—believes history is enduring and is carried in our bodies throughout generations. These manifestations lead to questions about stereotypes, rooted in our cultural programming, and whether they inform our ability to connect to one another.

At a time when people are beginning to acknowledge how deeply society—and ultimately, individuals—are steeped in the notion of white body supremacy, it is of particular interest to Hirt how trauma and collective guilt can keep us mired in constructed concepts of hierarchy perpetuating colonial injustice.

This exhibit, which runs September 13 to October 2 at Gage Gallery, in Bastion Square, is a continuation of Hirt’s previous series, The Indelible Mark, where the artist has reflected on her own Nazi ancestry and its legacy of guilt.

Storied Bodies draws from personal inquiry with the artist, unpacking her own biases and ignorance as a white settler living on Turtle Island. In abstract paintings and matching floating sculptures, questions of power imbalance are relayed by sizing, positioning and movement of many human figures. Her sculpture installation lives in direct communication with the paintings in the collection.

Hirt’s look at the human body as the place where fear of the “other” resides is inspired by the work of American author and therapist Resmaa Menakem, who says about racism: “There is a way out of this mess, and it requires each of us to begin with our own body. Your body —all of our bodies—is where changing the status quo must begin.”