Nanuk and Nanogak (2018) ALL IMAGES COURTESY OF ARTIST
Darcie Bernhardt is an artist from Tuktuyaaqtuuq, Inuvialuit Settlement Region, NT, now based in Halifax, NS. Her primary focus is painting and drawing. Her first solo exhibition, Ouiyaghasiak, included intimate paintings such as Nanuk and Nanogak (2018) that depict her life and memories growing up in Gwitch’in and Inuvialuit communities, which she considers to be a cornerstone of her artistic practice. While in town for Art Toronto 2019, where she was the Inuit Art Foundation’s featured artist, Bernhardt spoke with IAQ‘s Senior Editor John Geoghegan about her artistic practice, Inuvialuit artist representation and the busy year she has been having.
John Geoghegan: You have had an incredibly strong year as an artist with your work being included in several exhibitions. How did you got started making art?
Darcie Bernhardt: I was always drawing as a kid so it all started there. I can remember drawing as young as five years old and it used to be something that was just a hobby, but as I got older I realized it was something I could pursue seriously. I earned a Fine Arts Certificate from the School of Visual Arts at Yukon College and then later transferred to the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD). I really liked it there and now I live in Halifax.
JG: What was the most exciting thing about going to NSCAD?
DB: For me personally, it’s just a great space because in art school, for the most part, you get to be yourself. You get to really look at yourself and figure out what you like and not be judged for it. It’s a space to think about what you want to make and what you want to say.
JG: Your works seem to convey stories and events that have been important to you. What are some of the things that you are striving to express with your artwork?
DB: I think being able to create work as an Inuvialuit artist and express my identity creatively from my own perspective is really nice. It’s important to have that representation from small scale projects to big scale exhibitions.
JG: Have there been any artists or people from your community who have inspired you to be an artist or influenced your work?
DB: From an early age, I was influenced by my mom who is a seamstress. Our whole living room was covered with parka patterns and fabrics so I was always surrounded by art. My mom was also really close to the artist Agnes Nanogak and so she used to visit all the time before she passed. I was always surrounded by artists and seamstresses that my mom would invite over which made a nice environment.
JG: You seem to have really taken to painting as a medium. With so many different media available to you, can you explain what it is about painting that you like?
DB: Honestly, ever since I graduated, I’ve been taking a little break from painting. But I really like the drawing aspect and the things that you can do with colour. I like drawing because it is a very traditional and historic medium, but I also want to try other media as well. I would like to try sewing because I never actually learned how to sew from my mom, so that’s one project that I’m thinking about.
JG: You have travelled to attend several different exhibitions and art events in the last year! Is there any particular event, exhibition or project you’ve been a part of that stands out?
DB: Currently, I am working as a curatorial assistant with the Mount St. Vincent University Art Gallery in Halifax. I’m also taking a part-time class at NSCAD which is an introductory lithograph printmaking class. It’s been lots of fun, but also very busy. I’ve also been a part of the response exhibition to Jordan Bennett’s installation Ketu’ elmita’jik (They Want To Come Home) that was at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia and will now be touring until 2020 to four other locations in the Atlantic. It’s getting highlighted by RBC, which is pretty cool!
JG: What does it mean to you as a young Inuvialuit artist to have so much exposure?
DB: It’s really great! I feel that Inuvialuit artists everywhere are starting to get more exposure. It’s just so nice to see that representation in the art world or anywhere. It’s refreshing, because people don’t always know about the Western Arctic or what our art looks like and now we get to tell them about it! There’s so much out there.
This interview has been edited for clarity and condensed.