Rosalie Favell Indigenous portraits at Block Museum of Art

When Rosalie Favell, a photo-based Métis artist from Canada, picked up her camera to document fellow Indigenous artists at a residency in 2008, she did not expect to begin a major international project. But by 2018, her “Facing the Camera” Indigenous portraits series had grown to include more than 500 portraits of Indigenous artists and arts professionals taken across Canada, the United States and Australia.

The Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University will present the largest and most comprehensive showing of the series in the U.S. from September 20 to December 3, 2023. “Rosalie Favell: Indigenous Artists Facing the Camera” will include more than 115 photos from the series, as well as a suite of new portraits of Chicago-area artists and arts professionals taken during Favell’s Block Museum residency during the spring of 2023.

“Favell’s work is a living visual history and a critical intervention in expanding the visibility of contemporary Indigenous artists and arts professionals,” exhibition curator Corinne Granof said. “These portraits speak loudly of the broad diversity of Indigenous people engaged in the arts and cultural community.”

Collaborative portraits

Motivated by an attempt to give her community as much representation as possible, as well as an understanding of Indigenous people’s problematic relationship with photography, Favell views each “Facing the Camera” portrait as a collaborative project co-created with the sitter.

“Just one at a time, I just kept taking pictures, I wanted to meet artists, and have that record for posterity,” Favell said. “People come as they are. They can wear what they want, they stand in whatever position they want. I use the portrait to acknowledge the agency of the individual in bringing together their own cultural and personal sense of self.”

Favell often films her sessions, celebrating the momentary connection and interaction she has with her sitters as they face the camera. A selection of these films will be displayed within the exhibition.

“In front of the camera, people have an idea of who they are and how they want to be present and represented in the world. I want them to be uplifted,” Favell said.

"Rosalie Favell: Facing the Camera" portraits, L to R: Chris Pappan, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2012, Shan Goshorn, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2012, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2012, Inkjet prints.
“Rosalie Favell: Facing the Camera” portraits, L to R: Chris Pappan, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2012, Shan Goshorn, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2012, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2012, Inkjet prints. Images courtesy of the artist.

Picturing Chicago

Recognizing that Chicago is home to one of the largest urban Indigenous populations in the U.S., the artist was inspired to add artists of the region to her project. 

Favell and The Block worked with partners from Center for Native Futures, the Chicago American Indian Community Collaborative, and the Center for Native and Indigenous Research at Northwestern to invite 20 new sitters to expand the series. 

During her residency at The Block, Favell met with local artists, had conversations with Northwestern students, and concluded the week with a portrait session at the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian, in Evanston, Illinois.

The new Rosalie Favell Indigenous portraits, shown for the first time within the exhibition, will include the following artists: Annabelle Broeffle, Audra Simpson, Cherish Parrish, Chris Pappan, Courtney Biggs, Debra Yepa-Pappan, Ji Hae Yepa-Pappan, June Carpenter, Kelly Church, Kim Vigue, Le’Ana Asher, Lois Taylor Biggs, Lydia Cheshewalla, Mark Jourdan, Michaela Marchi, Monica Rickert-Bolter, Nora Moore Lloyd, Ryan Rice, Sharon Hoogstraten and Vince Romero.

“This exhibition represents one step in our ongoing work, as we aspire to be in good relation with partner organizations in the local Indigenous community for the long term,” Lisa Corrin, The Block’s Ellen Philip Katz Executive Director, said. “We are deeply grateful for all we are learning from our collaborators and for the opportunity to engage Northwestern faculty and students around the Indigenous histories and perspectives that continue to shape our present moment.”

An opening celebration and conversation will take place on Sept. 27. Admission to The Block Museum is always free and open to all. For more information visit The Block website.

About Rosalie Favell

Rosalie Favell is a photo-based artist, born in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Drawing inspiration from her family history and Métis (Cree/English) heritage, she uses a variety of sources, from family albums to popular culture, to present a complex self-portrait of her experiences as a contemporary aboriginal woman. Favell’s art often explores the relation of photography to issues of identity.  

Favell earned a bachelor’s degree from Ryerson Polytechnic Institute in Toronto, Ontario; an MFA from the University of New Mexico; and Honorary Doctoral Degree from OCAD University, Toronto, Ontario (2022).

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