Beads in the blood: Ruth Cuthand, a Survey

January 22 - April 10, 2021

College Art Gallery 1 and 2

guest curated by Felicia Gay

Stories survive, stories move beyond the realm of our voices, they move beyond the realm of our memories and they do not live in the past. Stories live within us germinating in each child born with umbilical cords buried within her heart. You hear people say, it is your blood memory, the stories will come to you in dreams if you are meant to have them. They say the stories live on in our language and on our faces. Our words are not gendered, they comprise of animate and inanimate beings. The beings in our language, we relate to them.

Ruth Cuthand (Plains Cree/ Scottish) belongs to Little Pine Cree Nation in Saskatchewan and is acknowledged as one of our nation’s preeminent contemporary artists. Cuthand’s practice as an artist began in the 1980’s and has since consistently contributed to the art history of Saskatchewan through her art and community engagement. Cuthand is valued as a leading figure within the contemporary arts landscape whose work has provided a thoughtful, honest and at times, critical look at what it is to be Indigenous and a woman in Canada. Cuthand’s ability to tell stories that live beyond the aural into the visual- is her life’s work. Story lives within the bead mikis (meegis), in our bodies, in our blood. Cuthand believes the bead is alive, because it is alive, it is a story-keeper. 

Ruth Cuthand’s interest in the bead as signifier, as medium and as decolonizer began with “Trading Series” in 2009, a suite of 12 images of viruses. 11 of the viruses were transmitted to Indigenous people through European contact and colonization and 1 virus that travelled from Indigenous territory to Europe. Beads in the blood, is a survey of Ruth Cuthand’s work that encapsulates the mobility of stories that encourage knowing, encourage caution and encourage continuation or survival. Beads in the blood, is comprised of new and past works that include video, mixed-media installation and photography and collaborative story-work between Cuthand and curator Felicia Gay.

Ruth Cuthand, "Typhoid", 2015-2016, Glass beads, thread, backing, 18" x 18"
Ruth Cuthand, "PTSD", 2020, Glass beads, thread, backing, 11 1/4" x 11 1/4" 



Ruth Cuthand is a Canadian mixed media artist of Plains Cree and Scottish ancestry whose practice includes painting, drawing, photography and beadwork. Born in 1954 in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, she grew up in Alberta, where as a child she met artist Gerald Tailfeathers, who inspired her to become an artist herself. Cuthand earned a BFA from the University of Saskatchewan in 1983, and a MFA, also from the University of Saskatchewan in 1992. Cuthand’s work is featured in many collections, including the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario and the MacKenzie Art Gallery, University of Saskatchewan Art Collection.Cuthand was honoured with the Saskatchewan Artist Award at the Lieutenant Governor’s Arts Awards in 2013. In 2016, she was honoured as a 2016 Arts & Science Alumni of Influence at the University of Saskatchewan. In 2020, she was awarded a Governor General's Award in Visual and Media Arts.

Felicia Gay, Swampy Cree/Scottish, is the first Curatorial Mitacs Fellow at the Mackenzie Art Gallery in Regina- a partnership with the University of Regina and Faculty of MAP. She is currently completing a PhD that began in 2019 as well as working as an independent curator. Felicia was the 2018 recipient of the Saskatchewan Arts Award for Leadership for her work with curation and advocacy for creating space with Indigenous art and artists since 2004. Gay holds a BA Honours in Art History, 2004 and a Masters Degree (Art History) 2011. In 2006, Felicia co-founded and was Artistic Director of the Red Shift Gallery, a contemporary Aboriginal art space in Saskatoon, Sk. with Joi Arcand. In 2020, Felicia was guest curator for Remai Modern, Saskatoon, SK in partnership with the Art Gallery of Alberta for the 2020 Biennial of Contemporary Art. Felicia Gay is from the northern island community of Cumberland House, Sk on treaty five territory.