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RG Miller: Tsi Non:we Entewaha’hara’ne / Our Path Forward

August 30 - September 22, 2024

Artist Talk: August 30
Opening Reception: First Friday, September 6

Tsi Non:we Entewaha’hara'ne features the art of R. G. Miller (Kanyen’kehà:ka / Mohawk), in response to his experience of 11 years incarcerated as a child in the Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School in Canada (1953-1964), one of hundreds of similar institutions established across Canada during the 19th and 20th centuries. Along with tens of thousands of other Indigenous children, R. G. Miller was forcibly removed from his family and community and put into an institution designed to “kill the Indian in the child.” Here he was subjected to terror and abuse by the priests that administered the so-called ‘school.’ The exhibit includes large oil paintings, mixed media sketches, and collages created by Miller during 2003-2008, intended to show the truth about these “death houses.” His art viscerally depicts what the Mohawk Institute actually was, what happened to him there, and how the artist continues surviving from the experience. It renounces and repudiates the genocidal silence of settler-colonialism, affirms Indigenous sovereignty through powerful visual commemoration, and is groundbreaking in North-American art worlds, Indigenous or otherwise.

Today the Indian residential school system is publicly acknowledged by Canada as part of a long settler genocide against Indigenous Peoples. Since 2010 Canada started down the path of national truth and reconciliation. Testimonials, oral histories, and artworks by living survivors like R.G. Miller are an integral part of this process. By comparison, the United States has yet to walk this path, even though it originated the idea of solving the “Indian problem” by removing children from their families, and operated more than double the number of institutions in Canada.

Because of the nature of the exhibit combined with the high aesthetic skills of the artist, the viewing experience may be upsetting for some. It is not suitable for children without adult accompaniment.

Emotional and mental health support will be available on site during events. The Residential School Survivors Society (IRSSS) can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-721-0066. A national Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. Access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.

Commemoration is not just for remembering the past, but also for growing strength to transform the present and shape the future.

ABOUT THE ARTIST

R. G. Miller is a member of the Haudenosaunee Six Nations of Grand River, and was born in a strawberry patch in Grand River Territory in 1950. He was almost three years old when he was taken away to the Mohawk Institute. When he got out 11 years later he was in bad shape. When he was 19, he attempted suicide by jumping off a building. But that same year (1969) he began formal art training at the Ontario College of Art (OCA), which provided him a raison d’etre. Miller excelled in painting, drawing, and printmaking. After six years training and then teaching at OCA, he continued his artistic development at the University of Toronto. During those Toronto years he developed a close relationship with the Ojibwa artist Arthur Shilling (who was also a Mohawk Institute Survivor), whom Miller credits with teaching him about the true uses of color, and how to paint fast. By the 1980s he became a professional artist and remains so to the present day. At the same time he has continually struggled with his residential school afterlife, and repeatedly self-destructed in his personal and social life. While an exceptionally gifted artist, Miller lacked the social skills necessary for successful schmoozing in contemporary Indigenous art worlds. It was not until 40 years after getting out of residential school that he was ready to create art about his experience. His healing journey has not ended and likely never will. He is still surviving.

ABOUT THE CURATOR

Neal Keating is a settler anthropologist and curator from New York City. While a graduate student at University at Albany in the 1990s, Keating began working as a curator at The Iroquois Indian Museum in Howes Cave, NY. It was through that position that he first came to know R.G. Miller and his work. In addition to this exhibit, Keating has curated two major Haudenosaunee artist retrospectives (G. Peter Jemison and Mary Adams), as well as exhibits of work by George Longfish and Shelley Niro. He is the author of a 5000-year survey of Haudenosaunee painting, titled Iroquois Art, History, and Power (Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 2012), as well as numerous articles on contemporary global Indigenous human rights movements. He is currently an Associate Professor of Anthropology at SUNY Brockport. Prior to becoming an anthropologist, Keating was a poet, musician, posterist, hitchhiker, and ‘zine maker.

Photos

In Partnership with:

Supported by:

New York State Council on the Arts
Farash Foundation
County of Monroe
Gouvernet Arts Fund
Mary S Mulligan Charitable Trust
and over 1,000 Members!