Canadian photographer Naomi Harris retraces the fur trade route travelled by Frances Anne Hopkins, a 19th century female painter who created an iconic record of the voyageur era.
Artist: Naomi Harris Curated by: Janet Clark
In the summer of 2018, Toronto artist Naomi Harris embarked on a 70-day canoe trip, accompanied by a guide, and dressed in 19th century period costume. Harris was inspired to retrace the fur trade route taken by British painter Frances Anne Hopkins (1838 – 1919), that she traveled with her husband, a high-ranking official with the Hudson’s Bay Company, by voyageur canoe. Hopkins travelled on three excursions during the 1860s and documented her experiences in sketches and paintings. Her works have become an iconic record of the voyageur era.
Using Hopkins’ paintings and sketchbooks as a starting point – and wearing the same period dress every day – Harris recreated the historic artist’s final voyage in 1869 from Lachine, QC to Kakabeka Falls, ON. Through this project, Harris explores what it meant to be a female artist during the 19th century compared to female artists practicing today to see how – if at all – the art world has changed for women in the last 150 years. Through a variety of photographic techniques, particularly self-portraits, Harris creates a mythological world where she crosses in and out of Frances Anne’s own life. By intertwining her experience with Hopkins’ imagined biography, Harris hopes to further challenge popular artistic conventions, create a new vision of who Frances Anne Hopkins was, and question female subjectivity in art and history.
Canadian artist Naomi Harris (b. 1973) seeks out interesting cultural trends to document through her subjects. Personal projects include America Swings, which documents the phenomenon of the lifestyle and was published by TASCHEN; EUSA, a reaction to the homogenization of European and American cultures through globalization, published by Kehrer Verlag; and her most recent book Haddon Hall in which she followed the last remaining elderly snowbirds at a Miami Beach hotel at the turn of the millennium. This latest project won the FUAM Book Dummy Award and was co-published by VOID and MASA Books. Currently, Naomi is completing her final year of a Masters in Fine Arts at the University at Buffalo. When not in the studio you can find her walking her dog Maggie.
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