Saskatchewan artist Ruth Cuthand (BFA'83, MFA'92) at the Remai Modern gallery in Saskatoon. KAYLE NEIS / Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Creative Isolation: Ruth Cuthand makes artistic creation out of COVID

Renowned artist Ruth Cuthand (BFA'83, MFA'92) has been working steadily through the pandemic, including creating a series of beaded COVID-19 viruses.

We’re checking in with a different Saskatchewan artist each week to talk about their life and work during COVID-19. This week we hear from Saskatchewan visual artist Ruth Cuthand, who won a Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts earlier this year.

Cuthand’s work has often highlighted societal issues for Indigenous peoples in Canada. Some of her most famous work comes from her Trading series in 2009, which featured beadwork images of viruses as a commentary on colonization. More recently, Cuthand’s work has been featured at the Remai Modern — and she’s added COVID-19 to her list of beaded diseases.

The StarPhoenix spoke with Cuthand about her work throughout the pandemic.

Q: What does your life look like right now, because of COVID-19?

A: At the start of the pandemic, I wasn’t leaving home. I had a couple of friends who would bring me groceries, so I didn’t have to leave. I’m a diabetic, so I’m one of those who’s kind of — a higher-risk person, if I got COVID. And I’m kind of an introvert … so not being around people didn’t bother me at all. I had lots of beading to do to keep me busy. I think the only thing I really missed was not being able to see my best friend and my daughters. My eldest daughter is in a group home here, and that was really tough. It was hard on her and it was hard on me.

Q: How has your work flow changed due to the pandemic?

A: It’s mostly still the same. I have a studio in my home — and lucky for me, I’m one of those people that when I buy beads, I buy lots. I have lots of beads; the pandemic could go on for four more years and I wouldn’t run out of beads. The only thing is — and I’ve noticed it on other sites — people are having trouble trying to get beading thread. A lot of the beading thread is from Japan … it’s going to be a while before our thread will start coming through.

Q: Tell me about how the new beaded COVID-19 virus project started.

A: My story is probably really unusual, because as the pandemic was getting nearer and nearer, people were asking me, “Are you going to bead COVID? When are you going to do that?” And I was like, “Yeah, I’m going to bead COVID.” So I started, and then institutions started getting in touch with me … but I had decided when all of these requests came in I would only do four larger beaded COVID (viruses). It kind of comes and goes, but I think all four of those are pre-sold.

That took up most of March and April, and then in May I thought that I would bead a mask … I think there’s going to be 10 masks when it’s over. So I have been really busy throughout the whole pandemic.

I want to say a big thank you to Canadian Art, because they had a part in their magazine about what people are working on … and that’s how I’ve gotten so much interest in my work, right now.

Read the full article at https://thestarphoenix.com.

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