Tamika Knutson: Skin
ODD Gallery, Dawson City, YT
May 17 – June 21, 2018
By: Emma Piirtoniemi
On May 17th, ODD Contemporary Art Gallery in Dawson City, YT, opened its very first exhibition of contemporary jewellery: Tamika Knutson’s solo exhibition Skin. In her investigation of the notion of skin as a personal shelter, Knutson uses birch bark as the primary material in her work. She retraces her Indigenous identity as a Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation through the use of this traditional, natural material and her primary methods of fabrication, which are beading and stitching. The sleek, geometric forms of these pieces address a convergence of past and present: the embodiment of Indigenous tradition meeting contemporaneity.
Exhibiting a series of nine neckpieces, each work in Skin was suspended from the ceiling on fine monofilament. The large scale of the pieces themselves created arresting compositions within the space. The lighting produced double silhouettes of each neckpiece: inspiring images of past and present; a ghostly mirror to the evocative physicality of the birch itself. With the pieces positioned away from the walls, viewers were able to circulate around each one and even imagine themselves embodying the work.
What was most exciting to see at the opening in particular, was the level of engagement viewers had with the work. The universal appeal of the medium of wearable art seemed to strike a chord, as the approachability of jewellery objects allowed for unusually rich encounters. Knutson’s use of birch bark sparked curiosity, inspiring questions about process and fabrication. The viewers’ fascination with these pieces was clear, and the simplicity of installation in the gallery space highlighted the unique significance of this work.
Read Emma Piirtoniemi's in-depth essay on Skin here