Mary Longman?s Blood and Stones exhibition provides a link of the stories, historical events, cultural and spiritual practices of the Plains people.
?The essence that I strive to achieve through the metaphorical form can be described as the Manitou, soul, presence and life in all things animate or inanimate,? she said. The effect of her effort is mesmerizing.
?Art has been a passion of mine since I was a young child. I have always found it rewarding to work on something I enjoy and have a sense of accomplishment when I complete a work,? said Longman, who is a member of Gordon First Nation located near Punnichy, Sask.
Longman?s has focused her education on visual arts with additional training in art history. Currently a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Victoria, she is a graduate of the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design, has a Masters degree in Fine Arts and has won several awards for her work.
Longman says that her work is diverse. Construction materials such as Matrix G and polished wood in the Blood and Stones exhibition encourage you to circle the pieces repeatedly?wishing you could touch them. Each work is intriguing, yet the viewer wonders how or if the large installations and pencil drawings are connected. The interconnection of the work comes as the viewer takes in another and then another piece. With concentration, it all comes together.
And stones?there are stones everywhere in this exhibit! Stones as gifts; stones as life; stones, stones, stones.
?The stone is perfect of its kind and is the work of nature, no artificial means being used in shaping it,? said Longman. ?Outwardly, it is not beautiful, but its structure is solid, like a solid house in which one may dwell. The stone was a central medium for First Nations peoples on the Plains for thousand of years. The stone forms left behind in the prairie grasses and on cliff faces trace the history and cultural practices of Plains people through time.?
An example of her work with stones is seen in her Elk Man Waiting for Love sculpture.
?The elk man I have created holds two rocks in his hand with a lock of hair from his desired loved one wrapped around them,? said Longman. ?He hopes his love medicine will bring her to accept his love.?
Another piece titled De-taut appears to be a musk ox horn holding the scales of justice. Baskets weigh rocks on one side and gold on the other. This brings to mind society?s weighing of nature against dollars.
Longman?s Thunderbird Nest is somewhat autobiographical. Her native name, Aski-piyesiwiskwew, translates to Earth Thunderbird and several family members also have variations of Thunderbird in their Saulteaux names.
?It is an honor to have Thunderbird in your name as it was the most powerful bird on the northern Plains. It has been described as the largest of the birds and it can project lightning from its eyes and, in flight, its wings sound like thunder.? Thunderbird Nest, made of cotton wood, Matrix G, rocks, ostrich egg and raffia, is Longman?s image of the type of nest this mysterious bird left behind.
?As an Aboriginal artist, I continue the ancient practice of leaving traces of our people?s stories,? she said.
This artist?s work in both exciting to look at and to contemplate. She has exhibited and lectured extensively across Canada and, in the upcoming year, her Reservation X exhibit goes to the National British Museum in London, England and then to The Hood Museum in New Hampshire. The Blood and Stones exhibit is currently in eastern Canada, so a gallery with the space to accommodate large sculptures could possibly arrange a viewing if they contacted the artist at .
?This approach to artistic creation is something that my ancestors have been doing for thousands of years, documenting life experience and time through the creation of a physical form, which in turn communicates to the conscious and unconscious being and to the metaphysical realm,? sad Mary Longman.