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Meryl McMaster

Ancestral 14
From the series "Ancestral"


Meryl McMaster
Born in Ottawa in 1988


Ancestral 14
From the series "Ancestral"




Chromogenic print, 1/5


100.6 x 75 cm


Purchase, Margaret A. Reid Bequest, inv. 2018.128


Graphic Arts

Meryl McMaster examines her Indigenous (Plains Cree and Siksika First Nations), British and Dutch heritage in the series “Ancestral.” This self-portrait combines her face with that of her father, Gerald McMaster, a well-known art historian, artist and curator, who, among other pursuits, advocates for the promotion of contemporary Indigenous artists and writers, empowering their voices so that they be heard in the worlds of art, history and anthropology. By projecting photographs and paintings of Indigenous men and women from the nineteenth century on to her and her father’s painted faces and bodies, McMaster repurposes misrepresentations perpetuated in historical portraits. She explains her intentions as follows: “In appropriating these images, I want to move them away from the stereotypes of romanticizing and classification. Historically, photography was used to capture otherness – to freeze cultures and people only to be gazed at. I want to reclaim my ancestors’ identity from these stereotypes and blur the ideas associated with the indigenous body in the western photographic tradition. I also feel that by extracting my ancestors from the historical images, time collapses and they step through me into the present.”  

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