Ancestral Reliquary

Levi Nelson

In keeping with the tradition of the artist visiting the master works in the museum, I found an entry way into my final grad project via the ancestral belongings of the Indigenous Peoples of British Columbia. Objects found within the collections of the Audain Art Museum Whistler, and the Museum of Anthropology at UBC, were explored through study sketches and photography, on my many visits to these houses of ancestral artifacts and treasures, in search of inspiration for the following paintings.

I am aware that I am an Indigenous artist practicing the European tradition of oil painting. Tradition is something I deeply respect in both Western and Indigenous cultures, as it provides a means to develop an understanding of the very nature of art and society. Works of art are left behind to guide the canon of our zeitgeist, as we borrow, steal, and find new ways to break the rules and push the conversation of art forward.

Masks, poles, blankets, and baskets designed and perfected by the individual who created them, stand to attest that culture is quite literally designed by the artist. When history makes reference to the past, to a people, or to a culture, we are presented with works of art as examples of their existence. This is the reason I live, this is the reason I create; so that I may contribute a verse to the stream of objet d’art that will be frozen in history and called upon to illustrate it.

Old Lady with Labret, 2021. 48 x 36 inches. Oil on canvas.
The Messengers, 2021. 66 x 55.5 inches. Oil on canvas.
The Messengers, (Detail).
The Forgotten, 2021. 40 x 30 inches. Oil on canvas. Private Collection.

Dzunukwa Wild Woman, 2019. 21 x 17 inches. Oil on canvas. Private Collection.

New Nomads, The Hitchhiker, 2019. 22 x 19 inches. Oil on canvas. Private Collection.
Nations in an Urban Landscape, 2019. 29 x 45 inches. Oil on canvas. Audain Permanent Collection.

Additional Paintings from the Past Year

Many Horses with Bepsi, 2021. 54 x 42 inches. Oil on canvas. Private Collection
Chief Joseph, Talk, Talk, Talk, 2020. 55 x 40 inches. Acrylic, oil, and oil paintstik on canvas. Private Collection

Decomposition (Fish Heads), 2021. 24 x 30 inches. Oil on canvas. Private Collection
Decomposition II, 2021. 24 x 36 inches. Oil on canvas. Private Collection
Gender Performativity, 2020. 47 x 73 inches. Acrylic on canvas. Private Collection
Creation of Killer Whale, 2020. 50 x 39.75 inches. Oil on canvas. Private Collection

Multimedia & Works on Paper

My Little War Pony, 2021. 30 x 22.5 inches. Acrylic, colored pencil, and acrylic paint pen on Arches paper. Private Collection
Digital Indigenous, 2020. 30 x 22.5 inches. Acrylic on Arches Paper. Private Collection
Chief Dan George After Warhol, 2020. 22.5 x 22.5 inches. Serigraph on Arches paper. Varied Edition. Private Collection
Norval Morrisseau Infiltrates the Land O Lakes, 2020. 33 x 66.5 inches. Acrylic, silkscreen, and collage on canvas
Two-Spirit Medicine Man Called Old Doctor, 2020. 45 x 36 inches. Acrylic, silkscreen, and collage on canvas. Collection of Gillian Siddall

Award Recipient

  • John C. Kerr Chancellor Emeritus Award for Excellence in Visual Arts
  • ECU Graduation Award for Anti-Racism + Social Justice – Visual Arts

Levi Nelson

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Levi Nelson is an artist from the Lil'wat Nation located in Mount Currie, BC. His primary focus is on oil painting, although Nelson has started to explore multimedia works on canvas. He recently exhibited work in the group show 'Resurgence: Indigequeer Identities' at the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art, and is at present working on a public art project with Haida artist James Hart and Squamish Nation artist Rick Harry, for the Audain Art Museum in Whistler. Nelson is the recipient of the 2018 IDEA Art Award, and the Ian Gillespie President's Discretionary Award. After completing his BFA in Visual Arts at Emily Carr University of Art + Design in Vancouver, Nelson plans on attending graduate school at Columbia University School of the Arts in New York.
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