Natalie Wood

Exordium

survey exhibition
March 26 - April 24, 2021

Exordium
Exordium 1
Commove X
Exordium 222
Exordium 3
Exordium 4
If I was a different person
Exordium 5
La vendretice devient la bombardiere
Exordium 7
Exordium 8
Exordium 9
Freeman: Hockey Fetish
Exordium 10
Exordium 11
Story Blocks
I will to you Rage (installation view)
Exordium 12
Exordium 13
Exordium 14
Exordium 15
Exordium 16
Excerpts from Time Will Come
Mirrored - Seen
Exordium 17
Exordium 18
Exordium 19
Untitled
Exordium 20
Packing Blue from Accounting
Exordium 22
Tar Baby
Exordium 23
Exordium 24
Ancestral Wisdom
Exordium 25
Exordium 26
Exordium 27
Exordium 28
Self-Portrait
Exordium 29

Exordium

Exordium, 2021
installation view

I have been haunted to release me from the haunting. -- Natalie Wood (2021)


...for art focuses on the single grain of rice, the tree-shaped scar, and the names of people, not only the number that arrived. And to the artist one can only say, not to be confused, not to be confused. You don’t waste your energy fighting the fever; you must only fight the disease and the disease is not racism. It is greed and the struggle for power. -- Toni Morrison (1975)


Paul Petro Contemporary Art is pleased to present Exordium, a twenty-year survey of works by Natalie Wood. Her work first came to our attention in Toronto's Queen St West art scene in the early 2000s. Our paths then crossed now and again over the years.


"I stole the term Exordium from Algerian-born philosopher Jacques Derrida in an attempt to contextualise the scope of my work created over the past couple of decades. In his introductory chapter in Spectres of Marxism Derrida deconstructs the phrase “I would like to learn to live finally”. Reading between his white Euro-Centred texts I recognize this statement of his as one that I wrestle with in the body of my work and from which the spectre of colonialism and anti-Black racism continues to haunt.

"I have been struggling with the experience of living while Black and queer and female. I have looked for answers to learning how to live, to survive and to do better. I have researched ancestral histories, Black futures, looked for counter-narratives in popular culture and tried to find myself in places where maybe I can learn how to live – finally and integrally, safely and bravely.

"This body of work showcases my experiences at the intersections of AfroCaribbean diaspora, race, gender and sexual orientation. With this work I exorcize the spirits/ ghosts of the afterlife of slavery, Black fungibility, and anti-Black racism. I create a counter-space for discussion, to reveal the haunting, to account, to understand what needs to be done in order to bring about liberation and justice….

"NourbeSe Philips writes that it is “our poets, writers, dancers, musicians and other artists who would heal us of the great tragedy of our being enslaved and brought unwillingly to the Americas and the Caribbean” (2017).

"I truly search for ways of being an artist that creates work that is “liberatory and seeks to dismantle existing structures” (bell hooks) of oppression.

"Exordium means introduction, a challenge to identify myself, yourself, an embrace, a sharing of knowledge, an experience, a welcome, a new relationship, an accounting, a memorializing, a hiding, and a haunting revealed."

-- Natalie Wood, March 2021


Born and raised in Trinidad, Natalie Wood arrived in Toronto in 1984 to study psychology, sociology and women's studies at the University of Toronto before obtaining her studio training at Ontario College of Art. Wood then went on to complete an MA in Art Education from OISE, at the University of Toronto, in 2000.

We first encountered Natalie’s work on Queen St West in 2001, in a series of grass roots group and solo exhibitions at the small artist-run private gallery Zsa Zsa, a block away from our gallery, with Thin Lizzie (2001), The Michael Jackson Project (2003), Relay (2003, a solo exhibition), and Pot Modern (2005), all curated by artist Andrew Harwood. Shortly after, her work was curated by, amongst others, Michelle Jacques, Nuit Blanche (2007), Pamela Edmonds, Art Gallery of Peterborough (2012) and Geneviève Wallen, OCADU (2015).

Wood's work cohabits the areas of popular culture, education and historical research, spanning the visual and media arts. The practice includes painting, drawing, printmaking, photography, video and performance, and extends into Wood's work as a curator, educator and community-based queer activist.

Wood is currently a tenured Professor in the Social Service Work Program at George Brown College where she co-founded and coordinated their Social Innovation Hub, an early stage incubator. She is also pursuing a PhD through the Faculty of Environmental Studies program at York University. Exordium is Wood's first exhibition at Paul Petro Contemporary Art.


Individual Works:




Commove X from Letters to My Ancestors 2005 encaustic wax, linocut, wire, mirrors, beads and shells on unstreched canvas 20 x 16 inches

These are ten incantations to help galvanize flight from oppression. In this piece – Letter # 8 from the Letters to My Ancestors series - I engage with the legend that Black people used to be able to fly until they ate salt. In the piece I repeat the phrase “Tilika Moosi Zau pende Iki Baka Ho Wende” which originates from the Kongo and was used as an incantation to galvanize flight back to Africa and home by those who knew how.

“The series called Letters to my Ancestors which I began in 2002, uses printing techniques such as linocut, photolithography and the application of other materials such as wire, shells, mirrors and encaustic wax – my version of Combined painting onto unstretched canvas. The Letters are visual missives that incorporate and combine objects of symbolic significance traditionally used in the creation of African talisman art pieces, such as mirrors, beads, feathers, and wires.

They document my search for a connection to my ancestors and their culture, using the elements of present day black culture, contemporary art practices and ancestral cultural traditions. The goal is to make connections that many black people like myself have lost due to the impact of slavery and colonialism. As a result these pieces have the aspect of a call in a call and response refrain.”





The Offering from Letters to my Ancestors 2003 pastels, wax, beads, linocut on unstretched canvas 20 x 16 inches

This piece is based on the Ojibway story of following the megis shell to settle in the area that came to be called Toronto. The Offering talks of providing tobacco to pay my respect to the Aboriginal ancestors.





Secrets from Letters to my Ancestors 2002 pastels, wax, beads, mirrors on unstretched canvas 20 x 16 inches

Why was there a need for secrecy?





Akuaba from Letters to my Ancestors 2003 pastels, wax, shells, mirrors, wire, linocut on unstretched canvas 20 x 16 inches

One story of the akuaba is that it was a statue placed at roadsides by parents in West Africa whose children were stolen into slavery. They were left there as a sign for them to find their way back home.





Missing from Letters to my Ancestors 2003 pastels, wax, shells, linocut, Photolithography, wire on unstretched canvas 20 x 16 inches

This piece looks at the original use of the lawn jockey as a signal for escaping slaves to know what was a safe house that they could hide in on their journey north. The connection between the lawn jockey and Eshu, the West African trickster god is also explored in this piece.





left to right: If I was a different person 2003 pastels, wax, shells, wire, sequins, safety pin on unstretched canvas 72 x 60 inches, The Dozens 2003 sound 7 minutes

The painting originates from a quote by a mother whose son was killed.

This audio piece accompanies the above painting and contains list of names of youth who have died in Toronto accompanied by ‘your momma’ jokes. This audio piece riffs off of your mama jokes and in the Relay series was paired with the “If I was a different person” painting. This form of humour originated during slavery times when sick and old slaves were sold by the dozen. Yo mama jokes are then juxtaposed with memorialising that contains a list of names of Black children and youth who were killed by violence including gun violence in Toronto. To listen please click here.





La vendretice devient la bombardiere 2021 watercolour on paper 23 ½ x 18 inches

This piece was inspired by Diego Rivera’s Pineapple seller where the pineapples have been transformed by bombs labelled with the names of Black people killed by Police here in Canada and the US.





Freeman: Hockey Fetish 2008 gesso & deconstructed cardboard 40 x 30 inches

A reference to the Gary Freeman story.





Fedon Nkisi 2008 gesso & deconstructed cardboard 30 x 40 inches

18th Century Grenadian freedom fighter who was never captured, and all that was found of him was an overturned canoe with a compass nailed to the inside bottom. He walked with a nkisi from which this piece takes some of its design.





Ancestral Silhouette Block 2003 encaustic wax, linocut, mirror, graphite, cowrie shells 5 x 3 ¾ x 3 ¾ inches

Messages from "The Underground Railroad: Next stop Toronto" by Adrienne Shadd, Afua Cooper and Karolyn Smardz Frost.





Blaxploitation Block 2003 encaustic wax, linocut, beads and pencil on paper 5 x 3 ¾ x 3 ¾ inches

This block dialogues with the black community's experience of violence and the rise of Blaxploitation films and terminology.





Tar Baby Block 2003 encaustic wax, linocut, sequins 5 x 3 ¾ x 3 ¾ inches





I will to you Rage 2003 encaustic, oil pastels, wire, shells on unstretched canvas 48 x 36 inches

This piece is from a series that explores the mis-designation of a category called “Black on Black violence” and uses a quote from the poet Pat Parker.





Mazalee (crossed) 2012 gesso & deconstructed cardboard 24 x 18 inches

This piece references a maroon colony in Trinidad that existed in the 1700s





Comfortable 2020 c-print edition of 5, #1 10 ¼ x 15 inches (image size)





Mirrored - Seen excerpt from Time Will Come 2018/2020 c-print edition of 5, #1 7 x 11 inches (image size)

Time Will Come is a 5 minute experimental video that dramatizes in dance, movement and metaphor the narrator’s quest to find her heart. The photograph titles are a play on the messaging found in the book and film Eat Pray Love. The experience of Seen, Fallen, Pray, Open, Laugh as a directive for a better life.





Fallen excerpt from Time Will Come 2018/2020 c-print edition of 5, #1 6 ¾ x 11 inches (image size)





Pray excerpt from Time Will Come 2018/2020 c-print edition of 5, #1 7 x 10 ½ inches (image size)





Open excerpt from Time Will Come 2018/2020 c-print edition of 5, #1 6 ½ x 11 inches (image size)





Laugh excerpt from Time Will Come 2018/2020 c-print edition of 5, #1 7 x 11 inches (image size)





Tied Fetish - Nkisi 2012 gesso & deconstructed cardboard 24 x 18 inches





Abolitionist table 2020 c-print edition of 5, #1 10 ½ x 16 inches

Abolitionist table is a fabled meeting between Frantz Fanon and Josephine Baker in a north African encampment.





Untitled from Accounting 2007 acrylic ink, graphite and oil pastel on Mylar 8 ½ x 5 ½ inches (private collection)





I ain't gonna be no damn fish food from Accounting 2014 acrylic ink, graphite and oil pastel on Mylar 9 ½ x 6 inches (private collection)





Untitled from Accounting 2003 acrylic ink, graphite and oil pastel on Mylar 8 ½ x 5 ½ inches





Diasporic Moves from Accounting 2008 acrylic ink, graphite and oil pastel on Mylar 9 x 6 inches





Relay from Accounting 2010 acrylic ink, graphite and oil pastel on Mylar 9 x 6 inches (private collection)





Life Ring from Accounting 2018 acrylic ink, graphite and oil pastel on Mylar 9 x 6 inches





Packing Blue from Accounting 2020 acrylic ink, graphite and oil pastel on Mylar 10 x 6 ½ inches





Tar Baby 2003 pastels, wax, shells, wire, pin on unstretched canvas 72 x 48 inches

Looks at the tale of the Tar Baby in the Brer Rabbit tales and relates it to the issue of violence facing the black community.





Fight Back 2000 linocut edition of 10 9 x 6 inches (image size)





I Can't breathe 2019 watercolour, acrylic and pen 18 ½ x 12 ¾ inches (private collection)





Ancestral Wisdom 2002 linocut edition of 10, #5 11 x 8 ½ inches (image size)





Neon Gede 2003 linocut edition of 10, #2 12 x 12 inches (image size)





Charmed Lady 2002 edition of 15, #5 12 x 12 inches (image size)





Self-Portrait 1999 linocut edition of 9, #3 8 ½ x 5 ½ inches (image size)