Melissa Johns | hand-me-downs

Event Date and Time: 
Friday, June 7, 2024 - 5:00pm to Saturday, July 20, 2024 - 5:00pm
Online Event: 
Urban Shaman Contemporary Aboriginal Art
203-290 McDermot Ave

Melissa Johns | hand-me-downs

June 7 - July 20, 2024


Opening reception: Friday, June 7th from 5-9 pm

Artist Talk and Livestream: Saturday, June 8th from 1-2 pm

Workshop: Thursday, June 6th from 3:30-7:30pm

There is a beauty in the spaces we have carved out for ourselves
our longing for what might have been
and our imaginings of possible futures.

Situated in storywork, material culture, and new media, hand-me-downs engages the past in conversation by reawakening forgotten narratives and reinterpreting inherited legacies. In a process-based undertaking of translation, preservation, and archival, the nostalgic and familiar are transformed in praxis with VR, video, digital painting, and beadwork.

Through material exploration of possessions, photos, and textiles passed across generations, memories are carried with love through digital reconstruction. Honouring that which is lost and remembered situates home and identity in the wake of displacement.

As a response to the lasting impacts of the residential school system, this dialogical practice communes with the past for the dual purposes of critical intervention and cultural bridging. Beyond its service to family, hand-me-downs seeks to engage others through evocation and immersion.

This work is for those who grapple with displacement, celebrating lived experiences situated between cultures. This is who we are as progressive generations of cultural embodiment, and it will be up to us to decide who we want to be.

And so the work continues.


Melissa Johns b. 1993

Melissa Johns is a new media artist and educator from a mixed Kanien’keha:ka (Mohawk, Turtle Clan) and French Canadian background, born and based in Tkaronto. Melissa's visual practice manifests at the convergence of contemporary media, using interdisciplinary methods to collect, preserve, and transform fragments of the stories around her. Her practice is process-heavy, meticulously translating sentimental objects and family histories into new digital forms. Specializing in virtual reality installations, digital painting, and video art, Melissa’s work centers on investigating the narrative potential of these emergent channels.