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Maria Hupfield's Double Punch, part of the Nine Years Towards the Sun collection at Phoenix's Heard Museum.Collection of the artist/Handout

Conceptual performance artist Maria Hupfield’s gloves may be off, but she’s not looking for confrontation. In her first U.S. solo exhibition – at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, on view through May 3 – the Toronto-based artist, an Anishinaabek citizen of Wasauksing First Nation, wants to share hands-on experiences with others.

Nine Years Towards the Sun collects more than 40 works by Hupfield, the 2018 winner of the Hnatyshyn Foundation prize for outstanding achievement by a Canadian mid-career artist, that spans performance, sculptural installation, video and document.

She gets into the ring with certain canonical male figures from 20th-century art whose use of industrial grey felt, everyday objects and soft sculpture are similar to her own: Joseph Beuys, Robert Morris, Jimmie Durham, Claes Oldenburg. “As we know, women are historically written out of art and history, which is something curator Erin Joyce and I wanted to address,” says Hupfield. “Erin is writing us women back in by making connections that place our work, ideas, processes and materials within conversations about art and alongside the names that get all the credit.” She also pays homage to artists who “have made and held space in the field of contemporary art” such as Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Faye Heavyshield, Simone Fonti, Rebecca Belmore and the Brooklyn performance-art community.

Over the next five years, the Heard Museum will exclusively exhibit monographic shows by Indigenous women and women-identifying artists, partly to redress the lack of gender parity in museums (The Art Newspaper has reported that in “a study of 820,000 exhibitions across the public and commercial sectors in 2018, only one third are by female artists”). Hupfield’s Double Punch, a pair of found striking gloves barnacled with gold-toned bells, aptly speak to this action. Bells are worn as part of dance regalia at powwows and help dancers stay in time. When worn by women as part of jingle dresses, they represent healing power.

The Heard’s initiative is a gesture that amounts to something like packing a punch, but rather than a closed fist, it’s an outstretched palm that beckons others in to engage in meaningful dialogue. “I like to control the narrative and dialogue about my work and my identity,” says Hupfield. “It is impossible to ignore someone when they are physically in front of you.”

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