Greg Staats

Greg Staats (Kanien'kehá:ka [Mohawk]) was born in 1963 in Ohsweken, Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, Ontario, and has lived and worked in Toronto since 1986, pursuing lens-based photography, video installation/performance, and sculpture. He received a degree in Applied Photography from Sheridan College, Toronto in 1983.

Staats’ lens based work combines language, mnemonics, and the natural world as an ongoing process of visualizing a Hodinohso:ni: restorative aesthetic that defines relational multiplicities with condolence and renewal. Motivation of his work comes from an existential displacement from the Kanien'kehá:ka language and subsequent relational worldview, while at the same time reflecting his on reserve lived experience. Staats’ installations combine the performative burdens of condolence, renewal, and his continuously re-imagined role as observer and participant, in an effort to elevate the mind and countervail complex trauma, disassociation, and loss of self. His ongoing photographic practice situates itself in a continuum of remembering and self-reflection, strengthened through orality, embodied wampum, and visualized mnemonics.

Solo exhibitions include: NIIPA, articule, McMaster Museum of Art, KWAG, Walter Philips Gallery, Banff, Mercer Union, Gallery TPW, Trinity Square Video/Images festival and the Art Gallery of Ontario. Group exhibitions include; AGYU, the National Gallery of Canada, the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, MOCNA, Sante Fe, Mercer Union, AGSM, Brandon, Museum of Civilization, and Museum London. His work is in public collections across Canada, including the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, Ottawa; and the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, Toronto. In 1999 he was the recipient of the Duke and Duchess of York Prize in Photography.


But Staats’ animose is not strange to me, rather I am strange to it. What is cast over me, as I contemplate the work, is my lack of vocabulary. I do not know what the pictures are trying to say; this state of suspension, verging on incompetence, is somehow compelling; I find the pictures very hard to forget. Staats communicates these images his “feeling of loss of language [Mohawk], culture and family.” To look through his lens is to feel longing-it clings-even though these works are, for Staats, “the beginnings of what now has become a mnenomic archive, a visual replacement for an oral history and its context in life.” The first encounters are with absence. They do not speak to me in words, but in waves. – Martha Langford

excerpt pg. 115, Scissors, Paper, Stone: Expressions of Memory in Contemporary Photographic Art 2007, McGill – Queen’s University Press. animose 1 of 25 images below