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The Artists & The Work

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Mixed media on canvas, 10”x10”
Artist catalogue: 16-016
May, 2016

When Mary Lou invited me to be a part of this project back in December 2015, I thought I had a clear idea of what I was going to create. A few months went by, and I met Joanna who was passing her work on to me. I saw it in progress and read her statement. And then a shift occurred. I couldn’t do my initial idea anymore. It’s not that I had a wrong idea of what reconciliation was about, but it would have been too jarring. It would have interrupted the flow of ideas that was occurring among the group. I had to set my own ego aside and think about the group and the process. And something Joanna had written in her statement stuck with me:

 “The strawberries have significance to first nations in this area … first fruit ... healing powers, and so on and so forth.”

Was it really that simple? From among the scenery, the decaying building and everything else going on in Joanna’s painting, the strawberries struck an essential chord.

As Jeannette noted when I revealed my work to her, I explored the core of reconciliation. I decided to go for pure simplicity and direct focus on the wild strawberry because, as a symbol of reconciliation, it is a clear representation of meaning. I simply placed it on a gold background to showcase it as the “gem” I feel it is. To me the wild strawberry represents the core of what reconciliation is all about.

True reconciliation is more than just the treaties; it’s also about the people, the land, the environment and the next seven generations. A strawberry needs sun, water and soil to grow a nourishing fruit. The strawberry is tiny but it packs a whole lot of flavour and vitamins. As Joanna noted, it is the first fruit of the season. True reconciliation needs more than just an apology. An apology is a first step. Reconciliation may seem like an insignificant idea, but it has far-reaching consequences. If the strawberry doesn’t grow, we cannot nourish ourselves. Without reconciliation we will not be able to heal our peoples. True reconciliation needs to be tended to, needs to be nourished in order for reconciliation to provide nourishment to those who need it. Many First Nations, Métis and Inuit across Canada cherish the wild strawberry and use it to give thanks to others they have benefited from because of its nourishing properties. Like the wild strawberry, true reconciliation seems like a such small thing – insignificant even – but it can work wonders to help bridge gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, to fuel our common journey toward the future together in a healthy, sustainable way.

I was born in Toronto in 1969. After working as a graphic designer for several years, I began showing my art publicly in 2009. I now work as a multi-disciplinary artist. I am more concerned about expressing feelings about my subject matter than recreating a technically realistic representation. I am fond of strong shapes and textures, and my style is often described as luminescent, energetic, bold and colourful. I often incorporate elements of my French and Algonquin heritage in concepts that blend the two cultures.

In 2015 I began an exploration of themes related to genetics and DNA. Some of these can be seen in works that honour my ancestral mothers. Art is a method of enquiry. It has allowed me to delve deeply into my identity. When I mix art with science, things become especially fascinating and exciting! In conjunction with cultural identity my connection to the land is a common subject, since it supports me physically and spiritually. I am inspired by my divergent cultures. One of my goals is to explore how my cultural connections and lifestyle interact with the natural environment that I live in and vice versa. A consistent theme of my work explores my life experience as a subsistence hunter.

Finally, a few of my projects were inspired from traditional storytelling and folk tales. Some of these have been reproduced by the Royal Canadian Mint on collector coins for release in 2013, 2014 and 2015. In June 2010 I was selected as an artist ambassador for the G20 Summit in Toronto, a volunteer position that garnered global media attention for Canadian artists from Muskoka. My work can be found in collections of the Government of Manitoba, Government of Alberta, corporate organizations and private collectors across Canada, the USA, Europe and Africa.