Multidisciplinary artist Shelley Niro (1954) is from the Mohawk Nation of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederacy) and is a member of the Turtle Clan from the Oshwekon, Six Nations Reserve in Ontario, Canada. Born in the United States in Niagara Falls, New York, Niro occupies a space distinguished by her multi-nationality. Her inherent right to belong to traditional territory overlapping colonial borders supports her fluid creative perspectives.
Niro’s practice as a painter, photographer, sculptor and filmmaker has garnered acclaim and accolades at many levels, commanding critical attention including an Eiteljorg Fellowship and the Woman in Film/GM Acceleration Grant. Her contemporary Indigenous perspective is based upon traditional knowledge; her sense of community and colonial critique re-contextualized through matriarchal wisdom, metaphor, masquerade and related expressions of sovereignty. In her flirtatious work Mohawks in Beehives (1990), a hand-tinted photographic series, Niro re-introduced the world to the complex nature and authority of the matriarch, a figure from traditional and contemporary societies that was oppressed under forms of colonialism. By re-addressing matriarchal matters, Niro confronts forms of power, stereotypical attitudes, sexuality, and society. Her aesthetics are doused with humor, play, adornment, and kitsch. (8/14)