Lindsay Delaronde tells about staying true to her chosen path as an Indigenous Artist while navigating modern notions of artistry. She generously shares insights & cultural perspectives for creatives who are defining their own unique journey.
My name is Lindsay Katsitsakatste Delaronde, I am a Kanienke’haka woman from Kahnawake. For the past 13 years, I have been a grateful, active and contributing guest on Lekwungen territory, Victoria, BC. I hold a Master’s degree in Fine Arts and a Master of Arts in the Indigenous Communities Counseling Psychology Program from the University of Victoria. I am currently enrolled in a PhD in Applied Theatre at UVIC. My areas of research are Contemporary and Traditional First Nations visual art, Indigenous performance practices, expressive arts therapy examining decolonial methodologies in art. My artistic practice focuses on Indigenous theatre, land-based/site-specific performance art, collaborative practice, cultural resurgence and social/political activism through the arts. My artistic media include land-based photography, performance/ theatre, movement/dance and visual studio arts. I held the position as the first Indigenous Artist in Residence for the City of Victoria 2017-2019. Co-facilitator for the collaboration project Achord. Visionary/Facilitator for both Indigenous Symposiums, Performance as Medicine, Making as Medicine. Visionary/Producer/Co-facilitator/ Community engagement for both Indigenous showcases Pendulum & Supernova, at the Belfry Theatre, Founder & Artistic Director for the Visible Bodies Collective. Dance residency recipient at Dance Victoria. Director for the film Mother: embodying Mother Earth teachings through land-based performance, Co-founder and Artistic Director for the Culture Den Society.
Transcript Resilient Creatives S1EP1
0:00:00.1 Speaker 1: This program was produced with the support of Storyhive, creativity connected by TELUS. For more information, please visit storyhive.com.
0:00:14.9 LD: What do you want your audience to hear?
0:00:16.7 Chantal Solomon: The intention for me is to create a container that allows people to share their stories on the creative path, the mystery and all the uncovering that happens with that. Maybe they'll inspire people or maybe they'll just help them see from their perspective, I would say in a nutshell. [chuckle]
Welcome to resilient creatives, a podcast that explores the role of creativity in our society. My name is Chantal Solomon, I'm a mixed-race artist and community herbalist. Through my practice, I explore re-mediating the connection between people and the natural world. This season I'm talking with artists about their creative practice and the hurdles and triumphs along their journey.
0:01:00.3 Lindsay Delaronde: [0:01:01.5] ____ My English name is Lindsay Delaronde, and I am ____ from Kahnawake, which is located in the province of Quebec, and I've been residing, living, working, raising my family and being an artist on the Lekwungen Territory for the last 14 years.
0:01:24.2 CS: Can you tell me about your art practice and how you identify as an artist?
0:01:29.4 LD: When I say artistry, for me I mean discipline and a rigour, and to learn how to be a receptor, to be able to transform and to become malleable in space to access the information that we don't see in the physical world. And really removing that Western colonial framework of what art is and what it means. Being human is so much of being an artist. The way that we do our hair, the way that we dress, the way that we walk, it's all these ingrained ways of life and living.
0:02:09.3 CS: It's refreshing to hear your perspective. Depending on how we were raised, Western culture may dominate the way that we move through the world, in ways that we don't even recognize, and I feel that that can influence our creations. I know for me, there's often been a tension between traditional teachings and the way that art is presented in modern times. How does your cultural background influence your art practice?
0:02:39.3 LD: In the Kanienkehaka culture, my sister was telling me that our sacred number is actually three because you have the strong binary, the dichotomy, the opposition, and the third is the divinity, as a sacred, as a spiritual, and it breaks the dichotomies so I think, of life, while embracing a third entity or realm, that I think creates multi-dimensional ways of looking and seeing things, so we are all in a creative place every day if we accept it or not, if we pick it up or not, if we nurture it or not, if it goes stagnant and it dies, these are all of these decisions and choices that we have in our lives to move towards creativity because that's natural law. Natural law and the law of the universe just wants more life, it wants to see life in billions of different perspectives, and being an artist allows me to play, discover, rediscover, claim, reject, challenge reality. Reality as I perceive it, reality as it's presented. Through media, social media, news, newspaper, all of these ways that we're conditioned as human beings to say, "This is the truth, this is real."
0:04:05.3 LD: And so as an artist, I think I separate myself from those pressures and those conditions and start to say "What part of that truth is true for me?" 'Cause anything that we see and perceive outside of ourselves, and we bring it into consciousness and we bring it into form, can be activated at any point of time, and so this way of being is really something that I've integrated in everything. It doesn't need to be understood by others. I think that's one big key factor in really claiming your artistry is you don't need to and I don't need to justify that.
0:04:45.3 CS: How did you develop your practice? Was it something that you cultivated on your own or did you have formal training?
0:04:54.1 LD: I started art school when I was 16 years old, so very institutional in my training, in my thinking. Started off at Dawson College in Montreal in the Fine Arts department. I did two years there, and then moved to Vancouver where I did a Bachelor's degree of Fine Arts, and then eventually moved to here, Victoria, where I did a Master's in Fine Arts. So to me, that was my path that I chose because I've watched my uncle very much immersed in the art world as a curator, as an Indigenous curator. And there was always this sophistication, a prestige almost... There's a falsity in that... So in the beginning stages of my life really recognizing that being indigenous, we're imposed about what success means for us, and part of that I bought into, strongly. Go to school, get my degrees. Looking at my journey now, I'm just starting to recognize that that's something that I've always rejected as well. I've never really been heavily immersed in the institution or the institutional way of thinking.
0:06:01.8 LD: So artistry in a way that is very personal, very sacred, the validation comes within, and then the external relationship to artistry, the mentorship and the relationships, the collaborations, the sharing. Each and every person that I've worked with has their own school of thought, and that's so interesting when you start to collaborate and work with other artists, and so that's sort of my background of how I see where I've been trained and where I've been educated and where I've also had to just reject all of that and go straight inward.
0:06:37.0 CS: You're reminding me of, I came up with a little saying for myself when I've met my different boundaries, and I'll just say to myself, "I'm an artist, I can do what I want." That I've had to challenge my own thoughts and way of being and what I thought I was supposed to be in the world or what an artist was supposed to be. For me, when I started to actually feel comfortable calling myself an artist, it gave me such a freedom I didn't realize that was waiting for me, it was like I had touched on it, but I had viewed art in a certain way of what you see in galleries, or this idea that seemed far away from where I was, and I wasn't in those certain social circles or these different things, so I couldn't be an artist, but when I started to be able to call myself that and own that, and what that meant for me personally. Yeah, I just felt so much more comfortable in myself.
0:07:27.9 LD: Being an artist has saved my life. Growing up, it was challenging, it was really challenging, and so a lot of us experienced difficult childhoods. I always had the land to revert back to for this place of safety and comfort and just be home and cut and tape and pin and mark, and all of these actions, all of these gestural actions, I was very drawn to as a young child. Anything to make with the hands and within that way of life and living art materials became a security blanket for me as well. Any time we would go anywhere, even if I didn't use it, and still to this day, I have to bring either a book, a sketchbook, a box of beads, something that I can go to. It is my go-to. It is something that I think has always been there for me. It's never rejected me, it's always accepted me, and it's always held my pain without judgment.
0:08:35.5 LD: And so art for me has really been that platform and that space, that very sacred space where I feel confident, I feel free, I feel like there's liberation in that, and I remember how that started to change for myself as a teenager because when you're growing up as a teenager, your bodies are changing, you're comparing yourself a lot to other young women, all of that type of sort of mental obsession, and that social conditioning was very strong for me. And I struggled a lot, because the way that I grew up, I had a lot of good, good, solid gems that helped me to be successful today, and I've also had these really, very dark crevices in my upbringing that has made my adolescence very challenging and into my 20s, and some of my 30s, for sure that are still unravelling. And really always having to go back to that same statement, "Well, that person might have this, this, this, and this, but I'm an artist, and it was something that nobody could ever take from me, no matter what decisions that I was making in my life for people to perceive me a certain way, it was always coming back down to at least I have my art, spirituality and art and healing have been very intertwined in my practice.
0:09:56.8 CS: Did you have a moment that helped you realize and define yourself as an artist, or was it something that just organically emerged over time?
0:10:09.0 LD: One of my very first critiques, I was 16 years old in a drawing class, and I did this collage of these photocopied photos of my family, and I drew all these masks on top just quite gestural and free-flowing. And in this critique, I remember my teacher saying, "So tell us about this work?" And I remember this overwhelming feeling, that same feeling when you're gonna share a story, these stories are cleansing stories, they're filled with emotion in your cells and they get activated, and now you have this adrenaline pumping through your body, and there's this purification, this prorogation and this cleansing that wants to come out. And within the institution, they're not trained or know how to hold space for those types of stories.
0:10:56.3 LD: And so there's a discrepancy there, there's a separation from this prestige, from this Western colonial way of making art, and then there's the artists that are at the mercy of fitting into this context, and there is a divide, there's a separation. And I remember having this overwhelming story of my family and feeling this cleansing, and I stepped back and I thought, "This is my path." I never thought about selling my work, that was never really an intention for me from that experience, I really knew that this was the way that I needed to live, period. It was gonna keep me alive, it was gonna keep me well, and it was something that I had to take really seriously, and it allows me to navigate this reality in any way I choose, and it's powerful.
0:11:49.4 CS: What would you say to the sort of thought or it's a construct that we have to equate being able to make money with being an artist versus the path that you chose where it seemed very clear to you that that's what it wasn't about?
0:12:05.7 LD: Well, I think it's still a struggle because all of my income comes through some sort of creative avenue in some ways, but becomes secondary where if I just really get honest, I think that when we can really see our value, when we really put in the time in this craftsmanship in this discipline, we are able to attract things that sustain us, whether it be good relationships, healthy food, positive thinking, it's all about the inner work. And so the more that I sort of invest in that inner work and keep cleansing and purifying and letting go and being in the present, there is financial gains that manifest. And so each of us have a choice. Are you doing this for a living? So being an artist and making art is one thing, being an educator is another thing if you wanna go on to be in the commercial scene, all of them have different unique skills, entrepreneur, communication, promotion, marketing if you wanna... Or if I wanna just be a creative person on the weekend after I finish work and I wanna pick up some beads or do some paint or whatever it is, and my central nervous system is calmed in that moment, and that's why I do it. There's a reprieve, there's a deep relaxation that happens, time stops, stressors diminish.
0:13:43.4 LD: So using art as a way of not this stagnation or this definition. And I think that some of it also it creates problems for us or these self-created roadblocks when we define what our artistry looks like. And so these imposed labels that become sort of projected on to us is something I think that we also have to reject as well. People say that to me a lot. "Well, you know, you're a performance artist." No, and it's like I didn't say that, I'm just an artist.
0:14:16.8 CS: Yeah, I asked because I know that that's something that a lot of people struggle with because they equate their time with money, and so many people are trained that way from a young age. This is how I have to spend eight hours of my day is making money. So if there isn't a direct correlation, then I think that a lot of people struggle with that.
0:14:34.7 LD: It's a path. There's different pathways, your pathway is very unique. My pathway is very unique, and on the way that we carve these paths, we all pick up these very unique skills, and when we come together, it's really about sharing. If anybody is stuck in that sort of blockage of that pathway, of what to do next, what are you really passionate about? That's something that a big question comes up to me when I'm asked to make a work, I just did a performance on Saturday. And a couple of weeks ago when I started this process, I thought to myself, "What is it that I really wanna say? What is the message that I really need to be a catalyst for?" And so I've learned about this reception and being a receptor through indigenous Kuna Rappahannock theatre artist, Monique Mojica, I've been looking at a lot of her work, and she talks about being a receptor, that we are a vessel, and there's these messages from the invisible. You could call it spirituality, divinity, whatever people call it, and we are here in this lifetime to raise the vibration of the people.
0:15:48.1 LD: And so I think artwork really challenges this sort of physicality, this three-dimensional reality in this existence, and it really I think dissolves the hardness and firmness of this physical world, and it creates more of an abstraction or a reduction of something where you actually can see essence. And so artistry for me is about finding that essence, but in order to find the essence, it's a lot of quieting those social conditions, and we have to take the responsibility and be accountable to doing the inner work. So for me, they parallel because the places and spaces within myself that have not been attended to or are not witnessed or validated in a way that I need to do that prorogation and cleansing, that's the work that I wanna do. I wanna keep letting go, and I know for sure, and I know for a fact that I'm not alone, 'cause when you do that type of work, it's naturally gonna repel and it's naturally gonna attract. I'm not on any type of social media platform right now, and I thought, "Wow, I really am invisible." If you're not in the internet social media world, you don't really exist, and so the existence of your presence really relies on this virtuality. And for me, I just... I find that virtuality dialogue and discussion, I can't enter.
0:17:24.5 LD: I have a hard time to understand words on a page, if I can't see a person and look in their eyes and be with them and see the light reflected on their skin, and to watch their body and their posture and their language, that's one of the struggles that I'm facing now, but it's also helping me to say, if people really are interested in the work, they'll come to find you. Like this experience right now, naturally and organically attract the people that you need that is in alignment with your vibrational state of mind, body and being. And so art has that power to really help us change our vibrational states, and a lot of us are activated in that central nervous system constantly in flight, fight, and freeze paralysis. Not knowing what to do, not knowing what to think, not knowing what to drop, that blockage, they call it that creative block. And so we need to confront it with bravery. It's all about bravery. It's all about confrontation.
0:18:31.0 LD: My work is 100% about confrontation, confrontation and conflict, and without this struggle, without this tension, it's like the chrysalis before that caterpillar emerges into a butterfly, it has to struggle as embracing struggle, not at being a blockage as a challenge that you can't overcome, but it's created for us to actually breakthrough, and in order to break through, you need to break through internally, you need to deconstruct, dismantle, decay. And so this idea of death is really important in my work because in death becomes rebirth. Naturally, as an empath, that was something that I did a lot, was absorb the present, absorb the emotions of others, absorb the struggles of others, recognizing that, that struggle for myself is a gift, but it also has created a lot of stress. So as artists, how do we care for ourselves? I think that's a big one. Along with the blockages, the challenges are there for a reason. And the only way to get to the other side is through that death of an idea.
0:19:39.8 LD: So there's the idea of artistry and craft that is very much about being present with the work and having conversation, all you're doing is receiving, these artists that are in this sort of complicated thinking that they are the one that is creating is one way of being an artist, but for me as an indigenous artist is really connected to that spirituality in that spiritual way of life and living, and knowing deeply that I am here for a reason, and that my ancestors and my spirit guides and the invisibility of these realities are always trying to tell me something.
0:20:19.1 CS: If we get praised for our work, that can become a pressure on people or maybe an unhealthy relationship with their practice, if they're looking for that validation. When you were talking about the online world, I think that that happens a lot, whereas how many likes did I get, or what have you, and people start to feel their value based off of that. Just a concept that we've been exploring, I think as a culture for the last few years of like what does that mean and what are the effects of that? So it's really interesting to hear you say like, "Oh, I don't exist 'cause I'm not on the internet." But if someone is able to actually be present with yourself and to witness you exist in that moment and you exist in that relationship between yourself and the audience, and in the land and everything and people will... They remember that, we remember experiences I think a lot more than we see so many images online in the day.
0:21:16.2 CS: It's like, "Oh yeah, I saw this cool artist, I can't remember what their name was," you may mix things up because there's just too much information. It's powerful what you're saying too, about the cleansing and absorbing other people's stuff, but I think it also happens online. I feel like sometimes I spend too much time online, and it's like I need to move my body, I need to express 'cause it's like this build-up of energy. I feel like it's a new part of this era that we're in right now, of being able to express everything that's going on because we're just having so much more input into ourselves, I think it's hard on us, I think it's hard on our nervous systems, and I think that that's one thing that in my own practice and I think other people can relate to, is that taking that quiet moment away from what is going on or what we could be tapping into. We could be doing all these things or watching all these shows, but if we actually just take some time to be with ourselves, to be with a simple paper and pen, or maybe it's just... Yeah, moving our body in nature a little bit, I think can be really nourishing.
0:22:18.9 LD: Absolutely.
0:22:20.1 CS: Yeah.
0:22:20.6 LD: If you think of any sort of native, indigenous, aboriginal ancient way of life and living, it was immersed in ritual. The way that people wake up in the morning and the way that people go to sleep, it's all about these rituals that we implement into our everyday lives, for cleansing, we are so sensitive, we are very tender and we forgot about that. The tenderness, the innocence, the purity, the gentle, the compassionate, and so I feel like my work has to also integrate those types of values in order for it to land. It has to create a sense of vulnerability, and sometimes that's really hard in the virtual world. In 2017 to '19, I was the very first indigenous artisan residence for the city of Victoria. And in that type of position and the responsibilities and the roles and what I was accountable to was really heavy, and because I was the first, you don't have a template, you don't have anybody before you to say, "Hey, how did you do this?" And I put a lot of pressure on myself. In two years, I developed 18 projects, not just singular projects, but collaborations from anywhere to 2 to 40 people, and I found myself at the end of the two years really broken.
0:23:46.5 LD: The criticism was hard, the critiques, the lack of understanding, feeling misunderstood. Not everybody values artists, people don't wanna give their taxpayers money to art. And so I was stuck in the sort of colonial institution, City Hall, non-arts organization, and there were struggles there, but there was also a lot of learning. At the end of the two years, I was very proud of the work that we accomplished. I got to work with many, many people, amazing people. I've learned so much. And so two years away from that position, I'm still not back together, but it was in that accepting of that brokenness, the idea of who you think you need to be as an artist, the type of work that you need to continue to do to have those likes and have that success. And actually, I think for any artist/ musician that has that type of pressure and that sort of lifestyle, it crushes you from the inside.
0:24:43.7 LD: Where I'm at now is a lot of healing work, a lot of going back into the essence, the discipline, the rigour and then finding my voice, which is the hardest pathway because the mental is so powerful, the ego is so powerful, but to come back down into your heart and to come back into an emotional place, of that compassion and purity, you have to abandon, you have to reject, and you have to have a spiritual death in order to have a re-awakening again. And being an artist is all about that. All artists that I know are either in a decomposing, decaying, complete oblivion, or they're in the light, that enlightenment is happening for us. And so I think we need to be really gentle as we work with one another who their head might be up against that brick wall, and the other artist is floating, just as in natural law, everything has a time and a place to be seen and visible. When you think about when a bud blossoms into a flower, it has its moment, but it also wilts, recedes, goes back into the darkness, goes back into the earth, and that compression and that pressure, it's painful, but it's also I think a pain that is manageable if we are conscientious about what stage and phase we are at.
0:26:11.8 LD: It could feel very fearful as an artist too. I think we could feel a lot of fear and we need to trust, deeply, deeply trust that this is the way that we're choosing. This is a way of life and living that we've been born into these bodies, whatever body you're in, whatever it looks like, whatever capacity. What is in your mind? How do you actually manifest that and bring it to form? Anything in our consciousness is invisible. There's so much in the invisible-ness, all of the matter, and the atoms, and atmosphere, we bring that and conjure that into form, and so that's the artistry for me. Whatever it is that comes to me in my mind, whatever is downloaded, whatever is gifted, whatever is offered, whatever emerges through this death and decaying, there's a crack of light that's gonna happen and the inspiration will come and you will be in the flow once again.
0:27:14.7 LD: And it's a spiral. It spirals up or it spirals down, but it's always in motion, just like this Earth. It's always in motion, and really, I think successful artists that sort of repel and attract people naturally, it's really, I think, healthy to have that tension. Rivalry, not in a sense of competition, but we do inspire each other, absolutely. I'm inspired by so many artists, so many people. That's my way of responding and appreciating is really about receiving, and I allow that receiving to happen and it propels that inspiration forward. You have to value yourself. You have to know that the alchemy that you bring into any material or any context is special and unique, and we are only responsible for our perception, our perceived reality. And how do we creatively work in spaces together amongst one another, in parallel with one another, where that deep respect is there and that healthy rivalry, that really, I think promotes inspiration and innovative thought.
0:28:28.3 CS: We could all use more innovative thoughts that take natural law into consideration and that deep respect that you speak of for our fellow creatives because it feels so vital for me in this time to encourage people to be creative and to be creative myself so that we can all walk in a good way. And that takes the best of traditional knowledge forward but also coming up with all these new inventions and things that we need to make our world more sustainable and healthy. Thank you for taking the time to sit down with me today, Lindsay, I really appreciate you sharing your stories and the different insights that you've gathered on your career thus far, and I hope it continues to be an inspiring and fruitful experience for you.
0:29:17.1 S1: This program was produced with the support of TELUS.