RON NOGANOSH’s sculptural assemblages integrate aspects of his Ojibway heritage with contemporary civilization’s garbage to create scathingly ironic comments on ecology, racism and socio-economic hierarchies. His goal is to encourage viewers to think, to cry, to laugh and to try to make a change. His work has been exhibited at the National Gallery and the Museum of Civilization in Canada, theSmithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, the Ethnological Museum of Russia, and the Museo Nacional de Mexico amongst others. His solo retrospective Ron Noganosh: It Takes Time toured Canada from 2000 – 2003. In the summer of 2004, his work was exhibited at the Musée National des Beaux Arts de Québec in Double Jeu:Identité et Culture along with works by Willie Cole of New York and Richard Purdy of Quebec. The publications, “Ron Noganosh: It Takes Time”, by Lucy Lippard and Tom Hill and “Double Jeu: Identité et Culture, by Joyceline Lupien and Jean-Philipe Uzel feature his sculpture.
Artist Statement: Ron Noganosh
Junk like rusted chainsaw blades and old hubcaps, becomes art, in the skilled hands of Ojibway sculptor Ron Noganosh, who works in a world of humour and irony to bring new meaning to discarded objects, while exploring questions of culture and identity. In addition to his imaginative use of recycled “garbage”, Ron also makes sensitive use of the more natural materials he finds — feathers, wood, stone and bone. “If it is natural, it feels good,” he says. “It’s like the thing is still living. The sculpture gives it another life and I use it in a way that’s respectful. In a sense, that helps me spiritually.”
Over the years Ojibway sculptor Ron Noganosh has worked as a zoo keeper, a sign painter, a miner, a scrap dealer, an art professor and an alligator wrestler. Born on the Magnetawan Reserve on Georgian Bay, he is currently living and working as an artist in Ottawa.
Ron’s found-object sculptures and installations take a witty but very critical look at serious issues faced by First Nations communities around the world — issues of culture, technology, identity, community, and the environment.
Since Ron began exhibiting, his art has won critical acclaim in exhibitions at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, the Museo Nacional de Mexico, the National Museum of Costa Rica, the Ethnological Museum of St. Petersburg, Russia and the Canadian Cultural Centre in Paris as well as in national museums and galleries in Japan, Taiwan. Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Denmark, and Finland.
In Canada it has been shown at the National Gallery of Canada, the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the Vancouver Art Gallery, and the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art in Toronto. Ron Noganosh: It Takes Time, his solo retrospective, which opened at the Ottawa Art Gallery, crisscrossed Canada for three years. It was the subject of the book, Ron Noganosh: It Takes Time, by Lucy Lippard and Tom Hill, which won the Canadian Museum Association’s award for the best art book of 2002. Most recently, in 2004, his work was part of the exhibition Double Jeu: Identité et Culture at the Musée National de Quebec, and was featured in the book Double Jeu: The Art of Willie Cole, Ron Noganosh and Richard Purdy, which was written by Joyceline Lupien and Jean-Philippe Uzel. Ron’s concern for protecting the environment, valuing First Nations’ peoples and cultures, and preserving and maintaining their land and heritage is paramount. His sculpture depicts the fury of native people caught in a web of technological, sociological and environmental ‘advances’ that threaten their culture and their very survival.
The Voices Crying in the Urban Wilderness series, examines the pain, impotence and rage that First Nations people experience when forced to live lives of abject poverty in urban areas. Found objects are carved and woven together in a fusion of old and new, pristine and corrupt, ugly and beautiful, to make a dramatic statement about native realities.
Major sculptural installations such as Forget Me Not, Innu, Does Anybody Know What Time It Is? Where The Buffalo Roam, If You Find Any Culture Send It Home and The Only Good Indian, speak of the destruction of whole civilizations, while on a more personal level, Anon Among Us examines the effects of cultural decimation on his own family.
His Shield Series, utilizes 20th century garbage to create iconic language that speaks with cynicism about the world. Thus Shield for A Vanishing Indian, Shield for an Internet Warrior, Shield for a Vanishing Buffalo, Shield for a Vanishing Metis, That’s All It Costs, and Shield For A Yuppie Warrior speak of a disappearing world given up to urban encroachments, and the human and social costs involved. Although his themes and materials reflect his native ancestry, the pieces he creates comment on issues such as ecology, racism, and socioeconomic hierarchies that are universal to all.
“I never thought that I would live to see the new millennium. In my lifetime I have hopped a steam train in the woods near my reserve, and watched a man walk on the moon. I have camped under a bridge, cooking and eating a goose for dinner while hitchhiking home for Christmas, and flown first class to Europe and Central America and Africa. I have seen starving children in developing countries and dined with millionaires and presidents. If this has taught me one thing, it is that we are all powered by similar emotions, desires and needs.
My work explores the destruction of the environment, of societies and of people. This destruction is not just inflicted from without, but from within as well. We are the architects of our own downfall. Humanity fails, when we as humans fail to safeguard our own altruism. This is the guiding ethos of my work. The garbage we discard is the media with which I work and through which I speak. If art is breaking out of the mold, then art for me is helping my people to break out of the mold that has imprisoned them for the past 500 years. I hope that my audiences everywhere, will see with new eyes, hear with new ears, and resonate with new laughter. If my work encourages people to think, to cry, to laugh and to try to make a change then I believe that I am succeeding at what being an artist is all about.”