Photo credit: Jasmine Jones

JRS or Julia Rose Sutherland
@Julia.rose.sutherland (Instagram)

Artist Bio:

JRS or Julia Rose Sutherland (She/They) is a storyteller, interdisciplinary artist, and educator/ Assistant Professor at OCAD Univeristy in Toronto, Canada. She is of Mi’kmaq (Metepenagiag Nation) and settler descent, with a rich background in Studio Arts and Craft and New Media. Holding an MFA from the University at Buffalo and a BFA from Alberta College of Art + Design, Sutherland navigates the intersections of art, activism, and academia.

Sutherland’s artistic practice is marked by a commitment to expanding the concept of testimony in the realm of human rights and social justice. Their work delves into the often-overlooked narratives of slow violence, unspoken testimonies, and testimonies of joy and hope. Their solo exhibitions, such as "Netuisget NISSING" and "GINA'MATIMG TIME OF ACQUIRING LEARNING," showcase a profound exploration of these themes, challenging conventional narratives and providing a platform for marginalized Indigenous voices.

In addition to solo exhibitions, Sutherland actively participates in group exhibitions nationally and internationally, contributing to renowned events like DesignTO Festival, Art Toronto, and the Contemporary Native Art Biennial. Their participation in exhibitions curated by institutions like The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery reflects their dedication to pushing artistic boundaries and engaging in critical dialogues.

Sutherland’s artistic contributions extend beyond gallery walls. Their work has been featured in publications and media, including an upcoming Front Cover Art Feature for Room Magazine. Notable the conver and interview in Trauma-Informed Pedagogy: Addressing Gender-Based Violence in the Classroom. She has been interviewed and features in The Globe and Mail's Style Magazine, the front cover of Esse magazine, and Art Toronto Panel Discussions highlight JRS's influence in decolonizing museums and promoting Indigeneity.

As an award-winning artist, Sutherland has received accolades such as OCAD University's Teaching Award and the Sustainable Futures Faculty Fellowship. Their dedication to sustainable pedagogy is evident through guest lectures, workshops, and participation as a jury member in various Art and Craft organizations.

Sutherland's impact is not confined to the art world; they are actively involved in shaping the artistic landscape. Serving as a jury member for prestigious organizations like the Ontario Arts Council and the Alberta Print Makers, JRS contributes to the selection and recognition of emerging artists. Their commitment to arts advocacy is further exemplified through their involvement in the Arts Advisory Committee for the Toronto Bentway Project.

With upcoming residencies at the Headlands Center for the Arts and past experiences at BEMIS Center for Contemporary Arts and Calgary Women's Centre, JRS continues to expand their artistic horizons. Their work transcends borders, with virtual residencies and lectures at institutions like Weber State University in Utah.

Sutherland’s journey is marked by a passion for dismantling traditional narratives, exploring the diverse facets of testimony, and contributing to the evolution of contemporary art. Through their art, education, and advocacy, Sutherland stands at the forefront of artists challenging the status quo, envisioning a future where diverse voices are heard and celebrated.

Artist Statement:

Sutherland navigates trauma and social issues associated with her Indigenous roots as a Mi'kmaq woman of the Metepenagiag Nation of Canada. She addresses the systems of commodification, representation, value, and the identity politics surrounding Indigenous Peoples of North America. With this, she fosters a dialogue regarding these marginalized communities' treatment, representation, and voice. The work often emphasizes concepts of loss and absence, alongside adapted Metepenagiag Mi'kmaq Nation traditional materials and techniques. Through her work, Sutherland reconnects a sense of identity and pushes to engage a more mindful conversation around topical subjects such as addiction, mental health, feminism, and Indigenous healing praxis and identity politics.

Through performative action, she engages traditional and spiritual methods such as smudging and other physical acts of exertion to connect herself with the natural landscape and her spirituality. Sutherland draws attention to how colonialism, postcolonial trauma and economics have had an everlasting effect on Mi'kmaq spiritual wellbeing, mental health, and health inflictions such as diabetes and heart disease.