Episode 39 with Nico Williams

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This week we welcome Nico Williams Nico Williams, ᐅᑌᒥᐣ (b. 1989) is Anishinaabe and member of Aamjiwnaang First Nation community. He is currently working in Tiohtià:ke | Mooniyang | Montréal. He has a multidisciplinary, often collaborative practice that is centered around sculptural beadwork. Williams is an active member in the urban Indigenous Montreal Arts community, a board member for the Biennale d'art contemporain autochtone (Contemporary Native Art Biennial), and a member of the Contemporary Geometric Beadwork research team. He has taught workshops at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, NSCAD University, the Indigenous Art Centre, Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC), and Carleton University. His work has been shown internationally and across Canada, including at the Art Museum at the University of Toronto, Musée des beaux-arts Montreal, Musée d’art contemporain de Montreal, Victoria Arts Council (British Columbia), PHI Foundation for Contemporary Art (Tiohtiá:ke), La Guilde (Tiohtiá:ke) and his most recent solo exhibition, Chi-Miigwech at Never Apart (Tiohtiá:ke). Williams’s practice has been featured by National Geographic (2018) and CBC (2021) and is housed in prominent public collections including Musee des beaux-arts Montreal, Musee d’art contemporain de Montreal, The Art Gallery of Ontario, Archives Nationales du Québec, the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation, and the Royal Bank of Canada Art Collection. His first public sculpture, Monument to the Brave, was commissioned in 2020 by the Sick Kids Foundation. Artist statement Using the bright, tactile materiality and relational nature of beadwork, my practice looks at the ways we live through connections with objects, place, and language. Often in collaboration and community with others, I make sculptures that are sometimes highly patterned abstracted geometric forms, sometimes sparkling representations of familiar objects, and always hand-woven from hundreds of glass beads. In their making, these sculptures become points of relation between the multiple hands that wove them as well as the cultural lenses through which different audiences access them. I choose to work with forms and objects that, like beadwork, have an overt—if often overlooked—relationship to gratitude, exchange and commerce, land, and the shaping, morphing ability of language. Sculptural geometries are a meeting point for technologies, stories, and lineages of knowledge. Translating everyday, accessible objects into beadwork re-presents regular things from our daily lives to reattune us to their attraction and code-switching, overlapping, shifting resonances across cultural contexts and modes of identity. This deep layering of held meaning about the connectivity of the past and present, cross-cultural interweaving, and both the harshness and beauty of our current reality shapes and motivates my practice.

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