Comic exhibit at Nanaimo Art Gallery features local Indigenous artist

bailey macabre stands in front of a quilt of comic art at the Nanaimo Art Gallery
bailey macabre is one of several Indigenous artists whose work is featured in the "Gutters Are Elastic" exhibit of comic art at the Nanaimo Art Gallery. Photo: Mick Sweetman / CHLY 101.7FM.
Mick Sweetman - CHLY - NanaimoBC | 19-07-2023
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bailey pitt, whose artist name is bailey macabre, is a local nêhiyaw ayâhkwêw, michif, Ukrainian, bisexual queer artist whose work will be part of the new "Gutters Are Elastic" exhibition of comic art at the Nanaimo Art Gallery this summer in downtown Nanaimo.

They were born and raised in traditional Snuneymuxw territory until Grade 7 and returned to Nanaimo in 2021.

“Some of my favorite childhood memories are here,” says macabre. “So I was very happy to return.”

Their artwork in the exhibition is an embroidered text based textile comic on raw canvas that features a ribbon-skirt back made with pearls and shells.

macabre also drew the land acknowledgment comic for the Vancouver Comic Festival last year where they worked with the host nation to create a visual representation of the history of the land.

“It feels more action based as opposed to just having an empty land acknowledgement that doesn't mean anything,” says macabre. “They're actually employing us and engaging with host nations in a way that really uplifts our voices, and gives us an opportunity to be part of a space that we're not often invited into.”

macabre is also the Indigenous engagement coordinator at Nanaimo Art Gallery

“I really want it to feel like a safe and comfortable space for indigenous people to come and hang out and make art together,” they say.

Out of a total of nine artists featured in the exhibit, four are Indigenous.

Whess Harman is best known for making the land back patch that's on the cover of the The Halluci Nation "Land Back" single.

Cole Pauls' work experiments with Tahltan shapes, culture and motifs.

bailey macabre with her art that is featured in the Gutters Are Electric Exhibit at the Nanaimo Art Gallery from July 14 to Sept. 24.

“He does a lot of wonderful, kind of Indigenous futurism type work and really talks a lot about stereotypes in comics and how it's historically been a place that tends to be quite stereotypical and doesn't showcase us or represent us in the best way,” says macabre. “And he fights back against that in really wonderful ways."

Sonny Assu uses his Ligwilda’xw of the Kwakwaka’wakw experience to reimagine the X-Men comics of the 1980s featuring the Australian Aboriginal character “Gateway” by painting his own artwork onto their pages.

Gallery curator Jesse Birch says the name of the exhibit is one that touches on comic readers’ experience.

“Gutters are the spaces between the panels in a comic,” Birch says. “So when you look at a comic, you might see six panels. And when you read the story, you look from panel to panel, and there'll be the beginning of a scene in the first one, for example. And then something else happens in the next one, the space between you have to fill in yourself. And so the gutters are the space where the readers can bring their own point of view into the story. And so that's why we say gutters are elastic, they can expand to include anyone's perspective.”

There is also a participatory aspect to the exhibit, with a mini-comic making station to a newsstand where local comic artists can display and sell their creations, and a comic library with bean-bag chairs to chill out and read.

On Saturday July 15 at 2 p.m. six of the artists from the exhibit will be in Dana Krall Plaza in downtown Nanaimo for a “draw along” event.

“I think that'll be a really fun and exciting opportunity for young or comic artists of all ages, burgeoning comic artists to connect with artists and see how they're making stuff, to sit down with them and participate in the conversation through drawing.”

"Gutters Are Elastic" opens at the Nanaimo Art Gallery on Friday, July 14 with a welcome by William Good from Snuneymuxw First Nation followed by an after party featuring local indie pop band Hush Pup and  DJ Nova Jade from Victoria. Cosplay is encouraged and there will be a prize for best costume. The exhibit is scheduled to run until Sept. 24.

Listen to the CHLY story below: