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U of A Hospital gallery showcases diverse talent

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By Dianne Meili Sweetgrass Writer EDMONTON







In a quiet recess of the frenetic University of Alberta Hospital is an artistic showing of diverse Aboriginal talent.

Shifting Patterns, curated by Edmonton’s Aaron Paquette, features paintings, claywork and photography by established and emerging artists and graces the intimate McMullen Gallery from Oct. 8 through Dec. 4.

Diana Young Kennedy, Gallery and Collection administrator, is excited about showing contemporary Aboriginal Art at the hospital.

“There’s such a connection between creativity and healing,” she said. “The bright colours and textures of these pieces soothe the soul, and are true to the vision Bill McMullen had for this gallery – that it would be an oasis from the realities of hospital life.”

Breaking open the doors that limited his work, internationally-acclaimed Dene Suline and Saulteaux painter Alex Janvier set the stage in Alberta for generations of new artists. Since the late 1950s when he began to paint, he refused to be pigeon-holed and pioneered a stunning new direction in Canadian painting. Cree painter George Littlechild’s poignant explorations of family and identity take viewers forward into this new world. His paintings have given voice and pride to a more open view of European and Indigenous relations.

Bert Crowfoot, photographer and publisher, has provided a venue for First Nations artists thanks to his work with the Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta and audiences see the world through his lens in his stunning photographic work. Dianne Meili, author of Those Who Know – Profiles of Alberta’s Elders, has been engaged in a thoughtful exploration of claywork and sculpture, giving a modern sensibility to an ancient, earthy art form. Paul Smith, painter and curator, provides a future-contemporary look at language and symbol, challenging notions of communication and personal meanings. Dawn Marie Marchand, an up-and-coming voice delves into her personal history in a stark and vulnerable way, inviting all to join her on a journey of discovery – not only of the self but of universal connection. Finally, Heather Shillinglaw takes us back to our roots with her mixed media paintings that bring to mind the patterns on a kokum’s dress, the medicines from the land, and the flowering of a new era.

According to Young Kennedy, the McMullen is the only specially-purposed gallery in Canada that was a part of the original architectural hospital plans, demonstrating the commitment to art and healing right from the beginning.

“It’s a fitting venue for a group of artists who are part of a growing voice that embraces not only our history, but a reclamation of our purpose, our strength, and our unity,” said Paquette. “They reflect the changing pattern of our society and in so doing, light the way as we go forward together.”