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First Nations artists present stunning show
Featuring the works of Alex Janvier, George Littlechild, Dianne Meili, Heather Shillinglaw, Bert Crowfoot and Paul Smith
Guest curated by Aaron Paquette
Runs until July 3, 2010
Profiles Public Art Gallery
St, Albert, Alberta
Call 780-460-4310 or visit www.artsheritage.ca/gallery for more information.
One of the best group shows is on now at Profiles and if you don’t get yourself out to see it then it will be like missing out on a once in a lifetime chance to meet da Vinci, Rembrandt, van Gogh, Michelangelo, O’Keefe and Annie Leibovitz.
Shifting Patterns is that important, perhaps more so because it encapsulates so effectively and efficiently the rich and complex world of First Nations artists and their art.
Even if the names Janvier, Littlechild, Crowfoot, Meili, Shillinglaw and Smith mean little to you now, one little footstep into the gallery will make those names infinitely more important. If you love visual art or even just like it a little, this show is essential viewing.
Guest curated by still young but already well-established Métis painter Aaron Paquette, the show immerses you in the world of First Nations through painting, photography and sculpture. There are a lot of meaningful images that swirl through the artists’ minds and spirits. It’s a blessing to experience how those ideas are transformed into representations.
Take Heather Shillinglaw’s multimedia pieces. It is as if she has taken profound trinkets and embedded them, affixed them somehow, to each significant canvas. She has spilled her life into her works, each a tribute to her great grandmother, a medicine woman. There’s treasure everywhere but not in the form of gold. Sometimes a thimble is just worth so much more.
I was also really struck by Paul Smith’s series featuring a rabbit character in urban settings. His struggles with identity and belonging in an increasingly cold and displaced society are powerful as the rabbit looks with wild eyes straight out at you. It reminded me of the figure in Donnie Darko except not as disturbing, only isolated and sad, struggling to reach out for his connections in the world.
This is some of the most vibrant storytelling around. Simple, yet staggering. Bert Crowfoot’s photographs of burning smudge or tobacco sprinkled on a river seem quite plain at first glimpse until you read the detail card. Because he depends on messages from his spirit guides, he sees images of bears and buffalo in these natural abstract forms as a way of staying in touch with his ancestors and the Earth. The meaning infused in these basic photos is heart-stopping. In much the same way, Dianne Meili’s sculptures demand closer inspection also.
I asked Paquette to describe how important this exhibit is to not just the First Nations communities but to the rest of us as well. He explained the title as having many changing meanings.
“It refers to the shifting of time — how things change over time, cultural expectations and biases, no matter what culture you’re in. As they interact, things start to change,” he said, referring to how all people are affected and adapt. This means that we’re all part of this family, and it was like a family reunion to step into this garden and hear the stories of all of these elders.
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