Carrie Allison can't stop thinking about grass. Like a verse in a Walt Whitman poem, she's been ruminating on single blades of the stuff, questioning its symbolism. "I look at grass as a tool of colonization. Basically it's been used to claim space. This idea of grass and of lawns started with royalty and them being like, 'Look how much land I have.' It was a sign of wealth. Now it's just everywhere. We have to maintain our lawn. If we grow anything else on it it's taboo, but grass doesn't do anything. It's not meant to be here. The grass that we grow is not native to this place," she explains, speaking by phone.
The result? A series of historically informed beadwork by the artist with Cree, Métis and European ancestry—titled "Plot"—that acts as a crowning glory on her current Mount Saint Vincent University Art Gallery exhibition, clearing. "A lot of my practice is about thinking and repetition and meditating on certain thoughts. I beaded 16 different grass blades and it really took me that long to think about, 'What is it doing, and what does grass hold in this place and where does that come from?' I connect dots through doing and making."
With past exhibits at the Museum of Natural History and the Anna Leonowens Gallery, Allison is no stranger to upending the assumptions western culture holds towards the environment: See her beading of the Shubenacadie River—which argued water is a life source, not a resource—for proof.
"I've always loved art. I don't think I set out to make anything intentionally infused with activism," she says. "You want to share your ideas as an artist, you want people to question the ideas that you're questioning. And I think that just being an Indigenous person in Canada is an inherit act of resistance and survival. It's an activist stance in itself because you're alive."