Monday, August 27, 2012

My humble contribution to an amazing project

Friday, June 29, 2012

"This is My Song" Exhibition: Another great review

By Rob Gill, Huntsville Art Society and Coordinator, The Art Space

"It is unfortunate that it is only one day before the show closes that I am able to fully articulate this, but I must emphasize just what a remarkable show this is. This exhibition may be located in the small, humble (but beautiful) room tucked away behind main street Huntsville that is The Art Space, but it is HUGE. Not only does it feature the work of twelve (a significant number) contemporary aboriginal Canadian women artists, arguably the most potent of themes, but it provides a broad (and concise) selection in terms of Nation (Metis, Anishnaabe, Ojibwe, Inuvialuit, Alutiiq, Dakota, Mohawk, and Anishnawbek), medium (painting, music, video/performance art, painting, textiles, multi-media, poetry), location (Northwest Territories, B.C, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Nova Socotia), and approach/genre (conceptual, performance art, traditional, symbolic, geometric, abstaction, representational, figurative). The calibre of the artists is beyond noteworthy, many late in their career with a significant international presence and radical contemporary currents can easily be found flowing through this show. This exhibition deeply engages both the heart and the mind. Thank you Nathalie and thank you to all the artists involved." - Rob Gill

Friday, June 8, 2012

Aboriginal women sing song of culture with art

 Article by Alison Brownlee, Huntsville Forester, Published Jun 06, 2012

SINGING TOGETHER: Aboriginal artists LauraLee K. Harris, left, Nathalie Bertin and Christine Caluya celebrate the opening reception of This is My Song: Perspectives from Contemporary Native Women on June 2 at The Art Space. The contemporary show is a artistic exhibition of aboriginal heritage and culture. Alison Brownlee

Art exhibition June 1 to 30

HUNTSVILLE – A new art exhibition seeks to open a dialogue about aboriginal culture and heritage.

Artist Nathalie Bertin, curator of This is My Song: Perspectives from Contemporary Native Women, said the exhibition of aboriginal artwork is an opportunity to share the culture and heritage of their communities with the public.

The female artists come from across Canada and many are internationally renowned for their work. Artists include Arlette Wolfgirl Alcock, Christine Caluya, Lee Claremont, Raven Davis, Lee Deranger, Lita Fontaine, LauraLee K. Harris, Inuk ThreeSixty, Tanya Lukin Linklater, Suzanne Smoke, Janice Toulouse and Nathalie Bertin.

The exhibition is at the Huntsville Art Society’s gallery, The Art Space, in downtown Huntsville.
“Last year, when I showed in different communities, every time was a great experience but every time I found myself talking about native culture more than the art,” said Bertin, who showed her work at the Huntsville gallery last year. “I noticed there was a huge lack of knowledge out there about who our First Nations people are and where they are coming from.”
Once the opportunity to have another show in Huntsville presented itself, she said she decided to forego a second solo show and instead do something of educational value for the community.

“I knew there was a desire for First Nations women to get out there and have their voice heard. And I don’t mean in a militant sense,” she said. “It’s more, ‘This is who we are. We’re not beggars and freeloaders. We are useful and in your society already, and this is who we are.’”
Bertin contacted several influential female artists and asked if they were interested in being a part of the show. The show would involve showing contemporary work that expresses the artists’ aboriginal social history – or song – and an accurate portrayal of who they are in today’s society.

The artists eagerly joined the show in an effort to reach out to the community and begin a discussion about their culture and heritage, said Bertin. And although the artists wanted to participate for the same reasons, each one’s work is unique.

Christine Caluya, for example, created a colourful self-portrait that represents the vibrancy for her culture. The painting incorporates female pow-wow dancers, whose capes and dancing also symbolize an aboriginal community’s heritage.

And LauraLee K. Harris uses the natural grain of wood and stain, along with poetry, to convey meaning. Harris said her work mirrors aboriginal culture as it incorporates introspection and depth along with education, emotion, thought and healing.

Bertin said she wants the show to engage the community. “I’m hoping the exhibition provides a lot of awareness and education,” she said.

Huntsville is the first stop for the exhibition. It will travel to several other communities in the province afterward, and now more aboriginal artists are asking to be a part of it, said Bertin.
“There is a tightness and bond between aboriginal women,” said Bertin. “Despite the diversity (of work) and that you have artists coming from one end of Canada to the other, if you look at all the art together there is a connection.”

Heritage, culture, family and the land are common themes in aboriginal artwork, she said, because they, like many other elements, are central in aboriginal heritage.

Rob Gill, co-ordinator for the show, said he is full of appreciation for the accomplished artists and is blown away by the caliber of their work.

This is My Song: Perspectives from Contemporary Native Women will be shown at The Art Space gallery in downtown Huntsville from June 1 to 30. The gallery is located off Queen Street across from River Mill Park and is open Thursday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Artist Statement: The Heritage Helmet Art Project

Title: For What They Believed
Materials: Metal war helmet, buck skin leather, leather lacing, glass beads, embroidery thread, beading thread, plastic ring, acrylic paint.
The inspiration for this helmet art stems from events surrounding the war of 1812. As we celebrate the 200th anniversary of this military event, it is important to remember all who helped win the fight and be reminded of the promises that were made for their help. Many historians and strategists agree that Canada would be a very different place if it wasn’t for the First Nations groups who agreed to fight alongside the British[1].
The leather skin covering the helmet represents how the First Nations provided cover, protection and support for the British. The beaded belt is a small scale representation of the “2 People (or 2 Row) Wampum”[2], a historical artifact of the diplomatic alliance between the British Crown and Haudenosaunee (Six Nations Confederacy comprised of Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca and Tuscarora)[3]. The two purple lines running down the centre represent two peoples on a parallel journey, never to overcome one another[4]. The painted floral motif on the leather represents the Queen’s York Rangers, from their insignia[5]. Similar to a tattoo on skin, they also represent the indelible mark that has been left behind by historical events.
If you’ve read my blog in the past, you’ll know that it took me a while to reflect on my reasons for participating[6]. Now that it’s completed, I feel confident that I was able to capture the message I intended. This helmet is not associated with any political party or stripe. Rather, it is a representation of the soldiers – both First Nations and European – who fought for what they believed. My greatest wish would be that a First Nations Elder and a representative of the Crown approve this work and bless it as a symbol for reconciling truth.

For more information about the Heritage Helmet Art Project and the Lt. Governor Simcoe's Levee in Honour of the Queen's York Rangers, visit:


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Art Really Does Cross Boundaries

Back in the winter, I had to chance to participate in a couple of great fundraising auctions that were organized and led by Mallory Knox. What started out as a quick way to raise funds for the people in crisis in Attawapiskat turned into an extraordinary online community. Not only did the auction raise a few thousand dollars, it raised awareness, brought complete strangers together from all over Canada, the US and overseas (some of whom are still "friends") and helped showcase some really incredible talent that we likely would not have seen otherwise.

The first auction was such a resounding success that another auction was set up in early 2012 to raise funds for the Lakota Pine Ridge Children's Enrichment Project, chosen by member vote. The second auction was also a great success thanks to all the participants, but mostly thanks to Knox's incredible coordinating abilities and strength of character. Check out the great write up for the "Art Knows No Boundaries Auction" on the Lakota Kids blog. It just goes to show the power of community, even if that community spans across the normal physical boundaries found on maps.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Opportunities for learning abound!

When 2012 first started, I wondered what the year would bring. And now that the first quarter is almost complete, a theme seems to have emerged: education. Not only am I on the verge of completing my B.Ed in Adult Education (which I’ve been working on part time for far longer than I had planned) but a few significant events have come up which involve all kinds of learning.
In early March, I was interviewed by Guelph University radio CFRU’s Dor Leung for a show called “Hands and Tails”. The topic was bears. Ms. Leung invited me to discuss bear imagery in my art, Aboriginal views of the animal and sustenance hunting. Other guests included a curator who discussed the city’s Begging Bear statue and a bee keeper who spoke about his trials and tribulations with bears. It was a well-rounded show with meaningful perspectives. I was happy to inject some learning about Aboriginal spiritual culture in the mix and my own personal observations about bears that most people would likely never experience. What made this interview even more special is that Dor, a student at the University, later shared her own goals and dreams. It was one of those days where you realize just how positive learning can be and that it comes in many different ways, not just the classroom.
Last week, another student, Jillian Zinn of Laurentian University, emailed to ask if I would be willing to answer some interview questions for a paper she was writing for her “Indigenous Arts of the Americas” class. She was interviewing several artists for this paper and hoped to gain a better understanding of the role of art in various Native cultures. It turned out that the entire paper was done about me. Talk about flattering! And humbling! The truth is answering her questions forced me to reflect but not only about what I would tell her. I found myself faced with honestly answering questions about what was really important to me in my art, where I was going with it and what I hoped to achieve. In reading her finished paper out loud to my husband Fred, he exclaimed that I actually have a mission statement – a rarity for artists according to him! All in all, as much as Jillian is the one working for the grade, I learned as much about myself in this exercise as she learned about me.
The third event I want to share with you in this post is a little different. I was recently selected to participate in an event called Heritage Helmet Art. The event is to commemorate the history of the Queen’s York Rangers at the opening of the new John Graves Simcoe Armoury. The helmet artworks will be displayed at the Aurora Cultural Centre for a month before being auctioned during Lieutenant Governor Simcoe’s Levee. There is also a tie-in with the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. At first I wasn’t going to participate and even wondered if the committee had considered my French and Native heritage before contacting me. After all, the Queen’s York Rangers battled the French and were sent to Manitoba to quell the 1885 Riel uprising. During the War of 1812, if it wasn’t for the First Nations groups who fought with them, the British would certainly have lost Upper Canada to the US – and yet none of the treaty promises were kept by the Crown. It’s a maddening, sad and shameful state of affairs with far reaching implications to this day! On serious reflection, I chose to participate because I view this project as an opportunity for learning. There is no point in taking an “us vs. them” attitude today. After all, we’re honouring the Queen’s York Rangers – a group who were simply sent to do the politicians’ bidding. And in honouring the QYRangers, we can also honour the First Nations groups who fought beside them while reminding Canadians about the broken promises they are still owed. For me, the core of this project is an opportunity to start a very important dialogue about the truth behind our collective history.
Finally, as the second quarter of 2012 is set to begin, I look forward to presenting you “This is My Song: Perspectives from Contemporary Native Women”. This is an art exhibition, that I am curating, of diverse works from Native women artists from across Canada. The intent of this show is to provide a creative forum for presenting these talented artists to Canadians but also to share in some dialogue about who they are, where they come from and what is important to them. I hope you will be able to join us for this future learning opportunity at The Art Space in Huntsville, Ontario this June.
For details about any of these events, please email me, call me or visit

Thursday, March 1, 2012

"Chasse nocturne" now available as a limited edition giclee!

Due to popular demand, a limited run of Giclee prints of the original work "Chasse nocturne" are being made available. There will only be a maximum run of 250. Get one while you can! 

Size: 10" x 12", canvas wrapped on gallery frame with 1.5" finished sides.

Price: $150 plus applicable taxes and shipping.

Call 905-868-8372 or email to order.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Reflections so far...

"Night Danger", 2012, 24" x 36", acrylic on wrapped canvas
It just occurred to me that it’s been a while since I wrote anything on this blog. At the end of 2011, I realized that doing three solo exhibitions in one year took a lot out of me from a spiritual standpoint. I was starting to incorporate a lot of black in my work and even did a large painting of a moose at night, barely noticeable except for a dim outline of its body, the light reflecting from its eyes and the “Night Danger” sign at the side of the highway! Unfortunately the photo doesn't do it justice... After I completed this one (which I actually really love), I knew I was a bit drained but that I was also craving a little humour in my work. I’m OK and still working on stuff but understand that I need occasional breaks from creating heady art with serious symbolic, spiritual or historical significance.
Recently, I started a new, large work that incorporates symbolism and narrative but I’ve also been interrupting myself to have fun with small paintings and simpler subject matter. It turns out that my style has become affected by my desire to relax my mind even though I haven’t really changed my actual technique. My friend, Sandra, actually commented on it before I even noticed. This recent work is indeed looser and freer. I’m also playing with shapes and angles more than ever before, and not dwelling so much on details although I still really like a pop of colour, or a hint of mystery. In the work I exhibited last year, most of the subject matter was front and center. The reason being is that I wanted to present a concept or idea head on for a direct conversation with the viewer.  The current small pieces I’m working on are all about injecting a bit of narrative  – nothing too serious, maybe even humorous, but just enough to let your mind wander to create a story without getting complicated.
"We used to get real snowbanks", 2012
6" x 8" x 1.5", acrylic on wood panel
I’ve heard that some curators don’t like it when artists start playing around with what looks like a different style. Apparently, they want consistent progression across the board. That might be fine for some artists but I can’t help but want to explore. No matter what I do will come from my own hand and therefore will have my imprint on it. Maybe it just means that collectors and art historians will have to wait until they see my ENTIRE body of work after I die to make the connections.  Until then, my creativity comes from what I’m feeling, living and experiencing in life. Ultimately, I want to paint the work that reflects the various parts of me and the changing world around me. While I respect my heritage and am proud of the sober work I’ve produced, there are other things in my life that make me who I am as a person and as an artist. My art is as much a reflection of my own well-being as it is a reflection of the stories I want to tell or the world as I see it (or want to see it). Right now, as much as I want to complete the big, symbolic, narrative painting, I also want to indulge in some witty creative exploration. I hope you’ll enjoy it too! :)