The past few months have been very good to me as I have made some friends and connections that have been inspiring me to explore new things and push the ceiling of my skills and knowledge. Spending time with Heritage Park and Alberta Printmakers has also lead me down some interesting paths. Looking back over the past year and a half, I have come to realize that I was creatively isolated in many ways during my time of recovery and I have been very thankful for this influx of stimulus in my life!
One of my more recent connections has been with the Making Treaty 7 Cultural Society. They support many theater and visual art endeavors in the Mohkinstsis (Calgary) region. The support they bring to the local First Nations, Metis and Inuit arts community is amazing. After attending an event of theirs in June, I was asked to submit work for their upcoming 2nd Annual Touring Exhibition. Imagine my delight when my piece, Reconciling Myself, was accepted!
This work is a little of a departure for me, but this has been brewing for a while. Those bright florescent lines have been steadily gaining ground in my paintings, letterpress and sketchbook for months. It took the inspiration of this piece to explode those hues to the forefront.
Lately my work has begun to explore identity; of particular interest is my Anishinaabe heritage. Like many Canadian families, this is complex and fraught with embedded societal racism, fear of Residential schools and broken ties with our cultural roots. As my father has made his own journey of making peace with these issues, a world has been opening up as he shares the past.
Issues of cultural appropriation have been forefront in my mind, I’ve been wary of taking bits and pieces of a culture I wasn’t raised in to forge my artistic identity. Approaching this painting, I thought about how to best represent the place that I am coming from. Basing my source imagery on European settler representations of First Nations peoples was a way to not only share a lot of my early understanding of my family history, but also an act of re-appropriation.
In my piece, Reconciling Myself, the source is from a 1910 postcard entitled “Indian Woman with Owl, Blind River”, which is the town where my father was born. This woman looks familiar to me, the slope of her nose and cheeks are the same that greet me in the mirror. In the photo, she seems unhappy and the owl looks to be a piece of taxidermy. I took liberties in my painting; she is serious, not sad. The owl is spreading it’s wings. In the background is a riot of colour and dynamic lines, a sign of life and the future.
I hope you will have a chance to take in this show in the coming months!
cSpace: Opening Wednesday September 18th until September 29th, 2019
Art Commons: Opening Wednesday October 1st until November 29th, 2019
New Central Library: Opening Monday December 2nd 2019 until January 18th, 2020