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Shelley NiroShelley Niro (Mohawk)

Shelley Niro is a photographer, painter, sculptor, bead worker, multimedia artist, and independent filmmaker. Her work has been exhibited in galleries and museums across Canada and the United States, including the National Museum of the American Indian, and she has had fellowships and residencies at major educational and cultural institutions. In 1997 Niro served as a Selector for the National Museum of the American Indian’s Native American Film + Video Festival.

With support from Telefilm Canada, in 2009 Niro wrote and directed her first feature film, Kissed by Lightning, the story of a grieving Mohawk painter. The film, starring Kateri Walker and Eric Schweig, premiered in 2009 at imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival and won the Santa Fe Film Festival’s 2009 Milagro Award for Best Indigenous Film. Niro painted the twelve paintings in the ‘Peacemaker’s Journey’ series that are featured in the film.

In 1992 she directed her first short film, It Starts with a Whisper, co-directed with Anna Gronau, followed by other films that take up matters of gender, Native identity, and colonialism. Her unconventional narrative technique incorporates elements of performance art, satire, burlesque, and song. Honey Moccasin, starring Tantoo Cardinal and Billy Merasty, won Best Experimental Work at the Dreamspeakers Festival in Edmonton and Best Feature at Red Earth Film Festival in Oklahoma.

Niro has been a participant in several important exhibitions at the Venice Biennale. In 2003 she was the exhibition artist for the IA3/Indigenous Arts Action Alliance initiative with photographs and her short film The Shirt, which was also screened at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival. At the 2007 Biennale her film Tree was paired with performance art by Native artist Lori Blondeau to comprise the Requickening Project.

Niro holds an Honours Fine Arts degree in painting and sculpture from the Ontario College of Art and an MFA from the University of Western Ontario and has continued to study film and media arts at the Banff Centre for the Arts. Niro was born in Niagara Falls, New York, and raised on the Six Nations Reserve. She and her husband currently live and work in Brantford, Ontario.

Work featured: Kissed by Lightning