When I first saw Odalisque at Artifake, I found it difficult to look at her. So rather than do that, I wandered off to look at the other works in the gallery as I thought about what so upset me about her.
In part it was her gaze and her powerfully strong posture. But mostly it was how she looked. Like most people in Vancouver exposed to Northwest Coast art, I’m used to seeing highly crafted and beautiful masks, totem poles and bent boxes. Odalisque, however, is rough and unfinished: I could see pencil marks left by the artist on the wood.
Odalisque was playing havoc with my neat categories. As someone with no First Nations ancestry, I’ve always recognized Northwest Coast art as being from someone else’s tradition. Odalisque was something new. She was someone I’d met before but never in an art gallery. If I’m an outsider in relation to most Northwest Coast Art, Odalisque made me feel more of an insider. I felt as if I saw part of myself in her. She got under my skin in a way that made me uncomfortable.
But since our first meeting, I’ve come to like Odalisque quite a lot. – Kevin Griffin