Marianne Nicolson

Marianne Nicolson is a member of the Dzawada’enuxw Tribe of the Kwakwaka’wakw Nations who now lives and works in Victoria, BC. For her series “Wanx’id: to hide, to be hidden” she used archival photos from her community as a form of story-telling inside etched glass boxes. The glass cubes are based on carved bentwood boxes that are common along the Northwest Coast as well as inside the Museum of Anthropology collection. They are often used as storage for ceremonial dress and other personal items belonging to a family or community. Traditionally they are wrapped in painted imagery on their exteriors.

Wanx'id: to hide, to be hidden, Marianne Nicolson, 2010. Photo by Ken Mayer.

For Marianne’s project the etched and photographic images are on the inside forcing the viewer to walk up and look inside. Shown as part of border zones at the Museum of Anthropology, the boxes were positioned on top of lightboxes that reflected the etched glass and made the transparent photographs glow.

Wanx'id: to hide, to be hidden, Marianna Nicolson. Photo by Ken Mayer.

The artist has said she chose images from the 1930s because they featured elders within her community as children. A major theme in this project is who has or doesn’t have access to certain types of knowledge, information, stories or ideas. As an aboriginal artist, Nicolson wanted to create a work where her family and friends could see themselves. If we have to change our physical position to view an image, does it change our experience of it? How does adding lighting behind an image change the way we see it?

Storage Box, Tom Patch Wamiss (Maker),Kingcome Inlet, BC.
Metal, Paint and Cedar. Museum of Anthropology Collection.

“The series of boxes I created for this installation, Wanx’id: to hide, to be hidden, reflects on notions of access, the public and the private, the sacred and the ordinary, and the tensions that exist between different cultures’ relationships to objects and artifacts.”