Planet Indigenus 4: Wolastoq and Mi’kmaq artists exhibit work in Toronto

Written by Sophie M. Lavoie on June 1, 2015


Tara Francis shows her art work. Photo by Sophie M. Lavoie.

From June 20 to September 20th, 2015, the work of some of New Brunswick’s best-known Native artists will be on display at one of Canada’s new leading cultural institutions, Toronto’s Harbourfont Centre, during the Expo called Planet Indigenus 4 curated by Melanie Egan, the Head of the Craft & Design Studios.

Planet Indigenus 4 will feature the theme of weaving, as present in the all the artists’ works. According to show’s website, weaving “is one of the oldest craft methods in human history, and an enduring form of cultural communication.” It is logical then that three of the eight artists are from the Maritimes, where the tradition of weaving is alive and thriving. A recent 2013 exhibition at the Charlotte Street Art Centre’s Penny Gallery titled “Tahkomiq/ Ma’kemigew” featured some beautiful baskets by Wolastoq artist Judie Acquin-Miksovsky, who also curated the exhibit.

For the Toronto Harbourfront Centre show, artists Tara Francis, Shane Perley-Dutcher, and Katie Nicholas will be representing New Brunswick in the exhibit. All three are well-known artists in the province.

Tara Francis is a Mi’kmaq artist from Elsipogtog First Nation who works primarily with porcupine quills, birch bark, acrylic and silk. Francis has extensive knowledge of Mi’kmaq symbolism and has taught beading and quill work in the Aboriginal Visual Arts Program at the NB College of Craft and Design in Fredericton.

Currently putting the finishing details on her pieces for the exhibit in her Fredericton studio, Francis stated: “I am very excited about being a part of this exhibit, as it is my first time exhibiting outside the Atlantic Provinces. I am grateful for the opportunity.”

“One of [her] most contemporary endeavours,” Francis’ piece for the expo is called Fusion: “It is a butterfly mask made using the process of silk fusion, embellished with needle felted wool and silk organza. It will also incorporate a crown of birchbark, with porcupine quillwork, depicting symbols from both my Mi’kmaq heritage and Irish.”

Shane Perley-Dutcher is a graduate of the jewelry manufacturing and metal arts program at the NB College of Craft and Design. He is a Wolastoq from Nekootkook First Nation (Tobique). In 2008, Perley-Dutcher was commissioned to create a pin to commemorate the Residential School Apology; the resulting design is a beautiful feather design in silver which incorporates the date.

Katie Nicholas is a recent graduate of the Aboriginal Visual Arts program at the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design who prefers mixed media, traditional fine crafts (basket weaving) and photography.  In the local arts community, Nicholas also served as ArtsNB’s Aboriginal Outreach Officer in 2014.

Nicholas is also thrilled at the prospect: “This is my first show outside of my home province so I’m really excited.” She will be showing “a contemporary piece called an “ash painting” –an image within a large canvas frame using various traditional weaving and dyeing techniques.”

Nicholas is especially proud of the Maliseet heritage present in her pieces: “These techniques have been taught for generations within our culture. Whether its a fiddlehead basket, a pack basket, a potato basket or fancy baskets, the techniques I’m using are the same but, rather than weaving a basket, I’m weaving an image.”

Also included in the exhibit are indigenous artists Lisa Hageman Yahgulanaas, a ravenstail weaver from Masset, Haida Gwaii, BC, and Patrick Leach, a potter and photographer from T’it’q’et,  a community in St’at’imc Nation Territory near Lillooet, south-central BC. Rounding out the group are three distinctive textile artists currently living in Ontario: Colleen McCarten, Meghan Price and Mary Duncan. The show’s opening night will feature a concert with Buffy Sainte-Marie.

Sophie M. Lavoie writes on arts and culture for the NB Media Co-op.

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