1. Tell us a bit about yourself!
I am a Canadian born artist who is a member of the Mi’kmaq Metepenagiag tribe of Red Bank, New Brunswick, but have lived and grown up in Calgary, Alberta. I create interdisciplinary artwork that utilizes mediums such as photography, sculpture, textiles and performance.
I completed my BFA in Craft and New Media with a specialty in Textiles at the Alberta College of Art and Design (now the Alberta University of the Arts) in 2013, and recently completed my MFA at the University at Buffalo in 2019. I have shown work and taken part in residencies in Canada, USA, China, Denmark, and France.
My art addresses the systems of commodification, representation, and worth, as well as the identity politics surrounding Indigenous Peoples of North America. With this, I aim to foster a dialogue regarding the treatment, representation, and voice of these marginalized communities. Often the work emphasizes concepts of loss, and absence, alongside adapted Mi’kmaq Nation traditional materials and techniques. I desire to regain a sense of identity and push to engage a more mindful conversation around topical subjects such as addiction, mental health, feminism, and aboriginal identity politics.
2. How did you get started as an artist?
I had a very turbulent upbringing, my childhood was difficult and on the other hand beautiful. I’ve found in life that those who find the most beauty in the things around them tend to be those who experienced the most harshness of life, and who learn to hold onto the small things that make life so special.
I started creating, drawing, writing, and generally diving into constructing other realities as a child as a way of coping with situations around me. This alone gave me an outlet, and as a child gave me a sense of worth. As I grew up it was just simply known I was the “artist of the family”.
After a while, I made a decision to pursue art as a career. I was very lucky that my family was very supportive of it. While in my undergrad I began to think more critically about art and activism, what I could do, what it could foster in dialogue and found my passion of creating a practice to help raise more awareness about social issues going on around me.
3. How did you get into making art?
During my undergraduate studies at ACAD (now Alberta University of the Arts,) I started to learn more about performance art, and art practices that revolve around social issues. This started a spark in the way I saw my own practice and I began slowly making more and more performative work about things I was passionate about.
I’ve been very fortunate to have had some amazing opportunities to take my performative work around the world, in Canada, USA, China and France. I just returned from a very fulfilling trip in Paris, France. I was invited to showcase a performance titled “Gesipatl Iga’latl” (Pain and Release) in Paris at the 59 rue de Rivoli Gallery. ‘I am my body, I am my memory’, a multidisciplinary festival of Contemporary Arts – organized by Action Hybride.
This performance directly deals with the notions of lateral violence and alternative healing praxis done through endurance among Indigenous Peoples of North America. Subverting the history of traditional Mi’kmaq craft (with the use of porcupine quills) I embellish and puncture her skin by doing the gestures that mimic “The Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit.” These actions seem violent, but rather once the quills are removed and teased out of the skin, she begins to embroider the 8 pointed stars into her white baptismal gown, stands up from her bowing position and embraces the landscape that surrounds her.
This was the fourth time I’ve shown this particular piece and it has changed each time, each audience brings so much to the work itself. I think I’m so attracted to doing performance work because it’s fluid, it changes and gains new and different meaning depending on the audience. It also allows me to take charge and agency of my body, actions and artistic vision as a woman, and as women, our bodies are inscribed with so much content and empowerment.
4. How do you feel about being a woman in the art scene in Calgary?
I feel that Calgary is making some pretty big strides in terms of showcasing women. For instance, right now Katie Ohe, an amazing sculptor, has a solo show at the Esker Foundation. Femme Wave is such a strong and uplifting festival in our city. The New Gallery and TRUCK, for example, are run by some amazing women. To me seeing women engage in the art scene, be they administrators, writers, artists and everything else in between, is an indication of something going right. That said, the art world has a lot of work to do still, and I am glad to be here and do what I can to contribute.
I think I am very lucky to be a woman in 2020, not to say that the world is perfect or doesn’t need more hand-holding, more support and change. But the fact that I could get an education, that I could connect with peers who inspire me every day. I don’t think that me being a woman was a hurdle for my artist practice. I certainly acknowledge the privileged point in which I am living, and the strives made by others.
5. What do you think we can do in the city to better support women in art?
I know it may sound simple, but I honestly believe that the best way in which to support women in the art scene in Calgary is to show up. Come to shows, start honest and passionate dialogue, be in the public eye, come to the panels, ask questions, share work, and show up for one another.
I am putting this out there because maybe it will get some bites. I want to run a podcast or panel series of women artists in this city and do small panel discussions between artists. Two or three artists sitting in a room discussing their work, intersections and ideas. I think this could be dreamy, provocative and interesting.
6. What are you most excited about for your residency here at the Women’s Centre?
Being an Artist in Residence with the Women’s Centre, I would have the opportunity to run at least one workshop, and I am looking forward to working with the girls group of the Centre. I think this will be an amazing experience. I am also looking forward to creating a new body of work, and am hoping the other artists and I can put together a show sometime this year to display our work together. Of course, I also look forward to the conversations, experiences and growth this opportunity will allow me.
7. Who is, or was, an influential woman in your life?
My grandmother Noellais is by far the most influential woman in my life. Essentially she is my mother, she raised me, and she always showed up for me. She has overcome, and prevailed over some of the most difficult moments in life, and has always taught me to take on others’ perspectives, to be compassionate and to take ownership of myself. She had felt loss, and has never let it take her down, and instead let it add to her in tender ways.
This is a woman who had my mother at the age of 15 on the reserve, to an abusive man. Who had the courage and strength to leave him with two children, to show up for them and herself and start a new life.
A woman who showed up for myself and my two sisters when her daughter was unwell, who needed help with an addiction, who raised us with unconditional love and support. A woman who says “I teach her more about our heritage and peoples than she can teach me” because she didn’t have the opportunity to learn these things, or to be able to take that time, because she was busy showing up for others. A woman with hobbies, a competitive scalable and mahjong player, who loves to dance and loves to tell stories and always promoted open and honest communication. The type of communication that saves lives.
8. What does feminism mean to you?
Intersectional and for everyone. If your feminism isn’t intersectional, what and who is it for?
I strongly believe feminism is for everyone as it’s a system of questioning the world, your own privilege and your own perspective. Navigating and understanding the ways in which women’s identities overlap and vary, understanding and embracing the fact that being equal is different for everyone. Identity, race, religion, sexual orientations, ethnicity and disability status are factors that change and impact the way in which someone experiences oppression, and that needs to be acknowledged and accounted for.
I believe feminism is a platform to uplift, show up and support others and ourselves. It is for folks who are agender, bigender, cisgender, two-spirt, gender fluid, genderqueer, intersex, gender variant, transgender, third gender and anything else.