Legacy Art Gallery and Visual Arts Visiting Speaker series presents

Robert Burke

Recorded MARCH 27, 2024

In collaboration with Legacy Art Gallery, Robert Burke joined our visiting speaker program in advance of his exhibition ‘Masked Identity: Artworks by Robert Burke’, April 20 September 7 at Legacy. ‘Masked Identity’ focuses on the life and art of Robert Burke, Denesuline (Chipewyan)/Black artist from Fort Smith, NWT. As a residential school survivor of 10 years, Robert knows the power of art. Robert’s art speaks to his life stories that emerge from the various social and political injustices he has experienced throughout his life on systematic, community, and individual levels that have informed Robert’s intricate symbolism. Creating his own elements and symbols, Robert steps out of a defined cultural iconography to construct his own unique style. This exhibition calls viewers in to witness Robert’s artistic and personal transformation as a Survivor who found healing and reconciliation through art.

Robert Burke was born in 1944 in Fort Smith, NWT to a mixed heritage of Denesuline (Chipewyan) and Black ancestry. At the age of four, he was sent to a residential school in Fort Resolution and later another residential school in Edmonton for almost a decade. After school, he entered the logging industry, dedicating two decades of his life before moving on to work as a heavy-duty mechanic and later as a contractor in BC’s West Coast forests. At the age of 53, he retired as a contractor and pursued his long-time passion for arts at the Victoria College of Art, focusing on illustrating his life stories, challenges, and social and political injustices he has experienced. Robert’s work addresses the challenges of defining identity as a multi-racial Indigenous and Black artist. He navigates the complexities of his past by transforming emotional nuances into meticulously detailed symbols that resonate with viewers.