I had the great honour of receiving my second Emerging Artist Scholarship from the YVR Art Foundation in 2019. I completed this piece in 2020. Due to COVID-19 this work will not be displayed in the Vancouver International Airport, please visit the YVR Art Foundations website to see the 2019 recipient work: http://www.yvrafgallery.com
Stsǫǫ Wueek means “Grandma’s Shirt” in Upper Tanana, Scottie Creek Dialect. I made this piece for my Grandma Gàan dànihtl’įǫStsǎy Ch’idzǜü’ Marilyn John who is an Upper Tanana Elder living in Beaver Creek, Yukon. My Grandma was my mentor and guided me while I created this work. We were inspired by an image of her older sister Bessie John wearing dance regalia with her sister Jenny and cousin Mary Tyone.
Grandma Marilyn wanted me to create a garment that would echo the photograph of her sisters. I took a few liberties and created a shawl version of the regalia. I also added beadwork with my Grandma’s favorite colours, purple and pink, to the front of the piece. We layered white stroud over red which is visible through the white fringes.
The back of the piece is a beaded depiction of Scottie Creek from Marilyn Lake, where my Grandma was born down to Tayh Ch’įį, where she lived as a child with her family. Scottie Creek crosses the fictious international border between Yukon and Alaska. Rather than focusing on the colonial definitions of place, I’ve only represented the waterway as well as old sites and homesteads along the creek. I beaded cabins in 24k gold and the Upper Tanana dome skin tent in 24k gold and galvanized gold beads. My Grandma recalls living in the dome skin tent prior to her family living in a wall tent and later a cabin.
Unfortunately, my Grandma is unable to physically return to her birthplace but I hope this wearable art will bring her comfort, joy, and memory of living with her parents and grandparents in the bush.
Photo credits: Christopher Walton and Teresa Vander Meer-Chasse
Èt-shình (Medicine) is about resilience, health, and power. As an Indigenous woman; racism, prejudice, lateral violence, and sexism are daily experiences. The effects colonialism and the forced removal of the matriarchy have significantly impacted our communities for the worse.
Èt-shình (Medicine) is a body of work that relates to my experiences with colonial patriarchy. Each garment is representative of unique experiences I’ve had over the last several years. Each piece is meant to make the wearer feel powerful and protected. This exhibition marks the beginning of my exploration into the world of upcycled fashion. I’ve enjoyed making the garments throughout my residency at the Bonnie McComb-Kreye Artist in Residence here in Victoria, British Columbia.
Èt-shình (Medicine) also includes three graduation caps that I discovered in a trash can at the University of Victoria while in residence in the Department of Art Education. Although I hold a post-secondary degree, I do not have any formal training in art. I was taught by my Grandma Marilyn and I felt it was important to keep the natural flow of my learning to community-based. I believe you don’t need a degree to be successful in life. My family is full of self-made, self-taught, entrepreneurs that are successful without obtaining a post-secondary degree. I wanted to pair the garments with the graduation caps because both speak towards the feeling of independence and power.
And finally, Èt-shình (Medicine) explores what it means to be a light-skinned Indigenous person. I’ve created a series of beaded patches with the letters W.I.G. on them. W.I.G. stands for “White Indian Girl,” a comment made within a threat that sparked the need for this exhibition. W.I.G. is a reclamation of my visible and invisible self.
I dedicate this exhibition to my Grandma Helen and my Grandma Jill who have passed away in April 2020.
Dineh Strong (2020), School of Hard Knocks (2020), and Self Made (2020) found graduation caps, bugle beads, seed beads, copper, turquoise, abalone buttons, nylon thread. I discovered the grad caps in a trash can on the University of Victoria’s campus. These caps represent achievement and yet, were so easily discarded. I wanted to transform them and celebrate all those that have not graduated high school or post-secondary. Community-based learning, mentorships, and self-taught experience are just as valuable as a degree.
W.I.G. (2020) wire, upcycled head band with horse hair, clamps, dentalium shells, adhesive. W.I.G. stands for “White Indian Girl” a comment made within a threat that was directed towards me. Rather than being offended by the blatant prejudice, I decided to claim the identity.
Three Sisters (2020) horse hair, imitation sinew. White River First Nation people come from three sisters. The centre braid represents the sister I am a descendant of. I purposely made this braid larger and did a 4-strand braid rather than three to illustrate complexity.
Teresa’s second solo exhibition A Study of Cloth and Beads was hosted at the Yukon Arts Centre’s Community Gallery.
November 2 – December 3, 2018
Inspired by the exhibition catalogue for Native Fashion Now, produced by the Peabody Essex Museum, the initial idea for A Study of Cloth and Beads was born. With no background in fashion, I wondered how the artists featured in Native Fashion Now discovered which fabrics worked well with beadwork. I wanted to study it myself and see if there were any new materials I could work with in the future.
For many beadwork artists, melton (a felt-like fabric) is often the fabric of choice when doing a large beadwork project. I had learned to work with tires and hubcaps with beadwork, but I hadn’t used many fabrics. I sought out the opportunity to study something new as well as present my findings to the public. With a background in social science, I’ve been craving a good research project.
Initially I asked myself: Which fabrics would work well with beadwork? Which ones wouldn’t? and Which ones would I be surprised with? After completing the work, I’ve discovered that I do not enjoy working with fabrics that have static or become wrinkled easily. I also would have benefitted from using an embroidery hoop for cotton and polyester fabrics that preferred to stretch. Fabrics with loose fibres, such as burlap or lace, are in no way ideal for beadwork however I enjoy the effect they can provide to the artwork.
Over the past year, I have been working in collaboration with artist Nicole Bauberger in creating an exhibition of Raven-inspired sculptural works. I was able to secure a $50k Creating, Knowing, and Sharing grant from Canada Council to begin the development of the work. We worked separately on artworks that would ultimately be in dialogue with one another. Wanting to create art together, we worked throughout summer 2018 to prepare a 14-location scavenger hunt that began at the end of September until the end of October.
(Above: Series of photographs taken during the project and before of Raven and Raven markings)
During this project we have exhibited work at the Da Ku Cultural Centre in Haines Junction, Yukon in the summer of 2018, and the Emily Carr House in Victoria, British Columbia for September 2018. We are currently in exhibition at the Yukon Artists @ Work Gallery in Whitehorse, Yukon until the end of October. We are looking forward to exhibitions at the Grimsby Public Art Gallery in Ontario in the summer of 2019 and the Art Gallery of Algoma in Sault Ste. Marie after that.
(Above: Tire remnant Raven with zip-tie face in washer. This is an interactive piece that can be found at the Yukon Arts Centre)
Throughout the project I collected tires off the side of the Alaska Highway from Whitehorse to Beaver Creek and boy, were there lots! I found it to be a very dangerous venture. I would spot the blown tire, check my rear view mirror, pull over, stop abruptly, and scavenge the tire before another car came. The tire itself was very difficult to work with because it would get caught on my clothes, wrecking a few outfits. I washed most of the tires I found but I still couldn’t get the burnt rubber smell off of them.
(Above: Leather Feathers is currently on display at Yukon Artists @ Work Gallery)
I wasn’t entirely attracted to the Raven component because I find Raven is overdone in the Yukon, however, I could connect to the want to change Raven’s image. Being an Indigenous person that does not refer to Raven as Creator or Trickster, I desperately wanted to reshape people’s understanding of what Raven is and what it could be. I ultimately changed my own perception of Raven and began to refer to Raven as scavenger, finder, and protector and that Raven can teach us about community, cooperation, and resourcefulness.
This project intends to chronicle light-hued Indigenous Peoples (of North America) through photography and experiences, involving prejudice, witnessing racism towards our darker-hued relatives, lateral violence, and their relationship with racism. This project does not intend to take up space of other Indigenous Peoples nor does it intend to start an oppression olympics, rather, to raise the questions “What does it mean to be Indigenous?” and “In a society defined by colourism, how can we move forward to support one another as Indigenous Peoples?”
Project Hue officially launched on June 21st, 2018 and is still accepting ongoing submissions.
Sisters (2017) was technically my test piece for Untitled (Resilience) (2016-17). I began beading the red flowers in an attempt to see how the black velvet would interact with the beads and antler. After experimenting with this piece, I set it aside and began to work on Untitled (Resilience) for YVR. After the completion of Untitled (Resilience), I decided to finish Sisters.
I cut the old floral pattern I did before and began a new. I loved the flow and patterning I eventually chose for the new work. I received the antlers from Dwayne, a Northern Tutchone member of White River First Nation. The antlers were fresh and still a light tan brown, they were not washed out from the sun. I placed the beadwork onto the antlers before adding a mount.
Sisters was briefly shown at the 2017 Adaka Cultural Festival in Whitehorse, Yukon in the Gallery but marked “not for sale” because of the lack of mount.
I reached out to Northfork Taxidermy in Whitehorse, Yukon for assistance. Artist and taxidermist, Cindy Klippenstein, was very helpful and made a beautiful circular backing for the antlers. The one thing I instructed her to keep was the tuft of fur on the top of the skull.
Sisters is the sister piece to Untitled (Resilience), reflecting upon the importance of resilience of Indigenous woman and the protection sisters feel when united. I do not have any biological sisters but I consider my closest friends, both Indigenous and non-, my kin and my sisters.
The piece will be included in an exhibition this summer, soon to be announced, for sale. I’ve grown a love for creating large artworks such as this. Although the beadwork can take months to complete, the pieces are eye-catching in a grandiose scale.
In 2016, I received a youth scholarship from the YVR (Vancouver International Airport) Art Foundation. I had proposed an antler sculpture which included beadwork and spoke towards the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. I attended the awards ceremony in May 2016. It was held in the Graham Clarke Atrium at YVR and had many artists in attendance. My mother, cousin, and my cousin’s partner joined me at the event. I was surrounded by well-known West Coast artists, including the late great Beau Dick.
After receiving the prestigious scholarship, I then had one year to complete the proposed artwork. Many scholarship recipients put the money towards their schooling. I, however, had already graduated and opted to study under a mentor. My mentor was Jennifer Bowen-Allen. I had met Jennifer when I was working at the Adaka Cultural Festival – she trained me to be the Visual Arts Coordinator. Through the scholarship program, Jennifer encouraged me to come up with a narrative for my artwork before creating it. This was a new process for me but it worked.
As a result of certain events taking place, my mind and heart were with those that endured abuse while in romantic relationships. I decided that this was the narrative I wanted to speak about in my piece. My dad had gifted me a sun-bleached antler rack that would be the main body of the work. My Uncle John assisted with cutting and securing the two antlers together.
I was living in Squamish, BC in the fall of 2016 when I began working on the beadwork for the piece. I chose black velvet so the colours would pop, however, the material is thinner than other fabrics and made beading the flowers difficult. The artwork is double-sided with wild roses being on the front and crocuses on the back. My partner Christopher assisted me with the final touches to the artwork, including attaching the fabric to the antlers.
I attended the unveiling ceremony in May 2017. It was a very emotional ceremony as many of the artists that year had deep and meaningful reflections of their artwork. I was joined proudly by my mother Janet Vander Meer, my father Wilfred Chasse, my brother Blake, cousin Quanah and his partner Candice, as well as my partner Christopher.
(Photo credit: Cynthia McCreery)
This piece tells the story of two women who were abused by the same man. The flowers represent these women and the parallel lives they lived. I dedicate this piece to all those abused, neglected, and ignored while in romantic relationships. I want my piece to inspire people to know that it is okay to love and be loved.
I am honoured to have received the award as well as having the opportunity of meeting so many talented young Indigenous artists. I’ve kept in touch with many of them through social media and am constantly witnessing their successes. I wish you all the best.
My Grandma Marilyn created a moosehide dress for me when I was young. We extended the dress with another piece of hide for my high school graduation. The dress fits, however, it’s a two person job to put the very heavy and hot dress on. Because of the constant hastle, I decided I wanted to have a vest.
Many believe that regalia should be created by someone in your family and gifted to you. It is not often done for a person to create their own regalia. I went against this common way of creating regalia and decided that I wanted to create my own. I planned on creating a moosehide vest featuring my beadwork.
I began to bead a large rose for the back of my vest while I was travelling across Ireland with my friend, Lisa. While I was in Dublin, Ireland I attended the internationally-known conference, MuseumNext. There I was able to make many connections that would eventually lead to me attending the conference again in New York City.
I eagerly put together my vest within a weekend so I would have something to wear on “Aboriginal” Day. As I walked proudly to the front doors of the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre I had encountered a not-so-pleasant situation. Three visibly Indigenous men had loudly asked “Why does a white chick get to wear a vest?” Rather than letting this comment go, I confronted the men and told them exactly why their question was entirely inaccurate. After a small lecture, one man quickly realized that we are related.
I continue to wear this vest with pride and will continue to add beadwork to it.
“This is Donnie, he reminds me of Frank,” a.k.a. Donnie, is a work of art created at the beginning of 2016. I was gifted this deer skull from my father, Wilfred. Wanting to use my newly acquired porcupine quills from my friend, Jackson, I decided to cover the skull with quills. As you can see, I did not remove any of the barbed tips of the quills; this resulted in many pricked bleeding fingers.
While creating the piece, I soon realized that Donnie needed to sit vertically so I crafted a small base out of styrofoam and black fabric. Once Donnie was threaded and secured to the base, I continued adding quills to the piece. I had received some grouse wings and tail feathers from White River First Nation member, Dwayne. Because I did not fan the tail feathers out as soon as I received them I had to boil the tail meat in hot water and stretch the feathers out into a fan formation. I then added a small quilled piece of hide to cover the base of the tail. Upper Tanana women often wear grouse tails in their hair or use it as a dance fan.
This work speaks towards the conflict in all of us.
Photo credit: Alistair Maitland Photography
If you haven’t caught on to why this piece is called “This is Donnie, he reminds me of Frank,” let me explain. During the process of creating this work I had watched the film Donnie Darko (2001), featuring Jake Gyllenhaal and Frank, the giant bunny rabbit. Inspired by this film, I saw the image of Frank in the skull, but I often forgot his name, therefore I nicknamed the work Donnie.
This piece was first featured at Art House Carcross in 2016 and is currently on tour in Saskatchewan in association with Sakewewak Artists Collective’s exhibition “The Next 150.”