Independent Art Fair

May 5 – May 8, 2022
Spring Studios, 50 Varick Street, New York, NY 10013

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Audie Murray uses bear grease to obscure one world while revealing another in the drawing series Bear Grease and Smudge Smoke, along with other new works, presented by Fazakas Gallery at the Independent Art Fair in New York. 

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Thursday May 5, 11AM – 8PM (Invitation only)

Public Fair Days
Friday, May 6, 12PM – 7PM
Saturday, May 7, 12PM – 7PM
Sunday, May 8, 12PM – 6PM

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Take a moment to think about bear grease. Imagine how it feels, smells, tastes. Picture where it comes from, how it was gathered and rendered, and by whom. Consider its practical and cultural value and its history of uses—as a natural medicine, as a foodstuff, as a shared commodity—that stretch back over millennia and across continents and territories. Familiar or not, suffice it to say that for many, bear grease is more than just bear grease. 

All of these elements—material, cultural, historical—subtly connect in Bear Grease and Smudge Smoke (2022), a new series of works by Métis artist Audie Murray. Murray is no stranger to elevating commonplace objects to higher conceptual grounds; intricately beaded sweat socks, work gloves, and toilet paper rolls, remnants of worn canvas sneakers, and cinder blocks have all appeared in past works. (The sculptural arrangement, Bud, Tobacco & Spider, with its offering of an emptied Budweiser can and tobacco bundle, wrapped in silver thread, is another recent example.) Yet there’s something less definitive, less direct, to Bear Grease and Smudge Smoke. A suite of nine “drawings” created in a performance by Murray capture the abstract imprints of movement as she pressed and rubbed bear grease mixed with the charcoal remnants of a smudging ceremony off her body. (David Hammons’s early body prints are a key reference point here.) The result is both physical and ephemeral, delicate and dynamic, imbued with the material traces of traditional knowledge and lived experience in spontaneous bodily gestures that resolve then disappear again in equal turns. Video of the performance (available online during the fair) is obscured by a layer of bear grease applied to the camera lens, adding a further, visceral filter to this play of presence and absence. 

For Murray, establishing this aura of perceptual distance is fundamental. Bear Grease and Smudge Smoke “deals with the idea of using the camera lens as a way to abstract the imagery of the performance,” she says, “and in that way create a space between artist and viewer.” This disruption of the artist-viewer dynamic challenges any neat reading of the work, instead triggering a reciprocal conversation where materials and actions, however unfamiliar or fleeting, become embodied, self-reflexive cues to deeper meanings and values—not as a means to an end, but as a critical opening onto something more. — Bryne McLaughlin

Literary Studio Influences

short list of Audie Murray’s reading recommendations:

Pleasure Activism, Adrienne Maree Brown

I Have Lived Four LivesWilfred Buck

Parable of the SowerOctavia E. Butler

The Crooked GoodLouise Bernice Halfe

Slow Scrape, Tanya Lukin Linklater

Monkey BeachEden Robinson

Audie Murray (b. 1993) is a multi-disciplinary Métis artist from Saskatchewan currently based in Regina. Working with themes of contemporary Indigenous culture and ideas of duality and connectivity, Murray draws on time honoured techniques and contemporary concepts to inform her material choices. Murray completed a Diploma in Visual Arts at Camosun College in 2016 and a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of Regina in 2017. Her BFA graduating work, Pair of Socks, was selected as the Saskatchewan winner of the 2017 BMO 1st Art! Prize, and in 2018 she was the recipient of the William and Meredith Saunderson Prize through the Hnatyshyn Foundation. Her work has been shown in solo and group exhibitions across Canada and the US. Most recently, the Nanaimo Art Gallery presented Murray’s solo exhibition, ​​Pawatamihk, from October 22, 2021 to January 9, 2022.