La Pieta

La Pieta, 2001–06. Shelley Niro (Bay of Quinte Mohawk), b. 1954. Digitized photo ink jet prints on canvas. Museum purchase, 2009 (26/7463).

This complex and layered work addresses the human and environmental tolls of armed conflict. Images referring to the displacement of the Iroquois people from the Mohawk Valley, the ongoing Grand River land dispute in Caledonia, Ontario, and the cleansing and regenerative power of water are bordered by a wampum belt symbolizing the upward journey of the spirit to the sky world after death. The red fabric represents bloodshed and poppies—emblems of war, remembrance, and renewal.

Shelley Niro (Bay of Quinte Mohawk, b. 1954) grew up on the Six Nations Reserve and is a graduate of the Ontario College of Art, where she received a degree in painting and sculpture, and the University of Western Ontario, where she earned an MFA. Niro’s art ranges from photography and film to painting and beadwork. She has been exhibited and collected widely and received numerous awards. Her work often incorporates humor and parody to address stereotypes and larger questions of identity, and to analyze how identity is constructed by individuals and society.

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The National Museum of the American Indian
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