Gail Tremblay Interview

with Cathy Denning, contemporary art historian and writer
Climate change and the ethnographic present

September 1, 2020


Known for her multimedia work, critical writing and poetry, Gail Tremblay (Mi’kmaq and Onondaga) is a contemporary artist, educator, and Indigenous Elder beloved to many throughout the Pacific Northwest and beyond. As a prolific writer and a generous mentor, Gail has advocated tirelessly for Indigenous artists, particularly women, throughout her career. She began her film basket series in 1985 when co-teaching a course on feminist theory and practice with colleague and filmmaker Marge Brown at Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA. Initially using student film scraps from the cutting room floor, Gail has continued to explore the material and conceptual possibilities of analog film which she uses to weave non-traditional baskets that are inspired by Mi’kmaq and Onondaga basketry forms and fancy stitch patterns of ash splint and sweet grass as a way to comment on Indigenous life in the 21st century. 


Please follow the link below to read the full interview. 

I wanted viewers to consider the filmmakers who were shooting a film where they asked people in the 1960s to reenact the lifestyle of their ancestors in the 1930s. [...] When I am trying to understand what has happened between 1967 and the present moment when I’m making the basket, I feel a desperate need to comment on how the film is looking backwards and trying to make it seem like Indigenous culture doesn’t change, and at the same time, the whole world is changing incredibly, so much so that within the next 50 years, it may become utterly impossible to do what the Inuit ancestors did to maintain a healthy Arctic ecosystem. In my mind, that is the sort of trajectory that the basket is exploring." -Gail Tremblay


About the Interviewer

Cathy Denning is a contemporary art historian and writer with curatorial and collection management experience. She received a MA in Contemporary Art and Critical Theory from the University of Oregon and dual BFA degrees in Art History and Photography from the Kansas City Art Institute. She wrote her graduate thesis on reenactment and archival practice in contemporary art with case studies on American artist Sharon Hayes and AIDS activism. She serves as Registrar at Froelick Gallery in Portland, OR. 


September 1, 2020