Adrian Stimson, Buffalo Boy on the Playa, Black and white photograph, Photo credit: Happy Grove, 2004

Mourning and Mayhem: The work of Adrian Stimson

Adrian Stimson

A Space Main Gallery

September 26 – October 28, 2017

Curated by: Wanda Nanibush

Toronto's first solo exhibition of multidisciplinary artist Adrian Stimson, featuring a new performance. Curated by Wanda Nanibush and proudly presented by imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival and A Space Gallery.

Mourning and Mayhem: The work of Adrian Stimson is a solo exhibition combining two streams of his multi-disciplinary practice: his experience in residential school and his commitment to the spirit of the buffalo. Buffalo Boy is the persona developed and lived by artist Adrian Stimson. Sporting fishnet stockings, a buffalo g-string, corsets, and pearls, Buffalo Boy’s transformations and campy shenanigans challenge colonial history as a story of Indigenous disappearance and inferiority. Buffalo Boy’s alter ego is Shaman Exterminator who inhabits the spirit of the Buffalo here and now as a form of healing and transcendence. 

Stimson’s installation, photography and performances often enact a reversal of the value system that supports colonialism and the value system that marginalized Indigenous people as uncivilized.Through processes of mourning and mayhem, Stimson’s work destabilizes these value systems with wit, irony, and campy humour while at the same time creating symbols of mourning that mark the trauma of colonial history that we wear in our bodies and communities. 

Stimson often uses real materials like buffalo hide or the remnants of the actual residential school that he attended in order to ground his camp aesthetic in an actual experience or material reality.  It is in the performance of play and the creation of spaces of mourning, in the creation of fictions and the maintenance of alternative histories, in the letting go and holding on to colonial trauma, and the engagement with the sacred and sacrilegious that separates Stimson’s from the rest as a radical agent of change and not simply a performer of postmodern puns.


Adrian Stimson is a member of the Siksika (Blackfoot) Nation. He has a BFA with distinction from the Alberta College of Art and Design and MFA from the University of Saskatchewan. He considers himself as an interdisciplinary artist; he exhibits nationally and internationally. His paintings are primarily monochromatic, they primarily depict bison in imagined landscapes, they are melancholic, memorializing, and sometimes whimsical, they evoke ideas cultural fragility, resilience and nostalgia. The British Museum recently acquired two paintings for their North American Indigenous collection. His performance art looks at identity construction, specifically the hybridization of the Indian, the cowboy, the shaman and Two Spirit being. Buffalo Boy, The Shaman Exterminator are two reoccurring personas. He was awarded the Blackfoot Visual Arts Award in 2009, the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal in 2003, the Alberta Centennial Medal in 2005 and the REVEAL Indigenous Arts Award – Hnatyshyn Foundation.

Wanda Nanibush is an Anishinaabe-kwe curator, image and word warrior, and community organizer from Beausoliel First Nation. Currently she is assistant curator of Canadian and Indigenous Art at the AGO. She has a master sin visual studies from the University of Toronto where she has taught graduate courses on Indigenous art, history and politics. Her curatorial credits include the exhibitions Toronto: Tributes + Tributaries, 1971-1989 (Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Sept. 2016 – May 2017), Sovereign Acts II (Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery, Ottawa, Jan. – April 2017), The Fifth World (Mendel Art Gallery, April 3 to June 7, 2015 touring) and the award winning KWE: The work of Rebecca Belmore (Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, Toronto, May – August 2014).