Friday, 6 January 2017

The Rent is Too Damn High!: Greedy and Shameful Landlords are Charging Far Too Much for Rent in Thunder Bay



      What needs are essential in order for an artist to survive? To flourish? To be able to contribute to their community? Few artists manage a full time living selling their wares or working with a publisher or gallery or promoter, yet having these connections is the biggest influence on where an artist lives. Being part of a scenee in important as well. Like-minded groups build camaraderie and help an artist to further engage with the public. 
     One of the biggest influences on where an artist chooses to reside is the rent. High rent won’t completely dissuade them from living in downtown Toronto or Vancouver, at least at first, but if they give their acting career a good try and it doesn’t illicit the work or success they had hoped, they are likely to seek out a more manageable cost of living elsewhere.
   Every human being on the planet requires shelter. It’s a human commonality, not a wanting luxury. And there are good reasons for governments around the world to believe that the most any average income earner should pay for shelter is 30 percent of their income. For someone to take advantage of a situation, like a flood, to take half or more of a person’s income by jacking up the rent without due cause is not just being greedy, it is disgraceful, shameful and it should be criminal. High rent makes life difficult for others and can outright steal a person’s ability to own a vehicle, to have a spouse, to have children, to save for a house. High rent can steal’s a young person’s future from them. On top of paying ever increasing tuition fees, students at Confederation College and Lakehead University will tell you how upset they are about high rent and that no one seems to care about their situation. 
     For artists the cost of materials is high. Framing is expensive. Promoting and selling work requires being an entrepreneur and business person on the side with all sorts of costs involved. They are particularly vulnerable to economic change. And any adult earning a basic income and looking for an apartment is in trouble. 
     The rent has seriously jumped in Thunder Bay without cause. What goes on in the head of a landlord when she or he decides to hike the rent by hundreds of dollars? Where are the great new jobs flooding into Thunder Bay? Has everyone’s pay suddenly doubled? Do landlords think we’re all winning lotteries? 
     It’s not the “market” that is making them hike rent or lack of rental spaces, for even if this is true it’s still no justification for the hike. It’s taking advantage of people. It’s outright shameful greed. Or could it be that people have a fantasy that the future is so bright here in Thunder Bay that we are all going to pick money from trees. It’s not happening.
     High rent will make life harsher in Thunder Bay and lead to a slow suicide for the city. We should be encouraging people to move here. We should make the city amendable to our children so they can have good lives here. We need to make our city beautiful. Economists say we need Thunder Bay’s population to grow by at least thirty to fifty thousand people in the next twenty years if we want a healthy and viable city. Closing schools and businesses won’t help. It won’t help to defund promotional campaigns that advertise the city. It won’t help to defund the arts or underfund programs and projects that make Thunder Bay culturally attractive and beautiful for those living here. Why would anyone living in other cities with worthwhile amenities want to move here? People need good reasons to brave a Northern living with its isolation and long winters. And they need reasons not to leave.
    Having grown up in Thunder Bay and travelled to quite a few countries I’m suspicious of an undercurrent of fear in this city: the fear of change. I think the reason so many people are jacking the rent and politicians are doing little to nothing about it is because these people secretly don’t want young people to succeed. They don’t want people to move here. Artists, young people and outsiders might change the face of the city, change the culture. They might alter the city’s course and make it something other than what’s it’s always been; familiar, comfortable, low key, stable. 
    Artists and young people are terrible. They like to do research and get worldly experiences by traveling, opening their eyes and being empathetic. When they return they bring ideas with them and open up gastropubs which puts the familiar greasy spoon places out of business. You don’t want more of that, now do you? Imagine if artists, young people, First Nations people and immigrants became politicians or big business owners. They might “change” things. Scary. 
     In the name of human decency let’s start by lowering the rent in 2017 and practice giving to others and not taking what isn’t yours.

Friday, 9 December 2016

Make Art Great Again: A Call to Canadian Artists to Destroy the Donald Trump Train


A Canadian iconic painting (modified), Horse and Train by Alex Colville.
If Trump isn’t soon ousted from office it will be time for a war effort, one in which artists and others work to prevent him and his cronies from infecting masses of people with fear, hate, bigotry, sexism, prejudice and an ideology that puts money and retarded ideas about success ahead of people, animals and the environment. 
     A number of calls for action have gone out to artists and within the calls are predictions that Trump’s presidency will foster new art movements the likes of which hasn’t been seen since before World War II. If a new art movement does occur it will be one with clear messages and imagery that connects with the public with the potential to protect individual and disadvantaged groups’ freedoms in a diverse cultural landscape where everyone should be treated equally. And it may produce great art.  
      Many American journalists, historians and politicians are proving to be correct in their assertions that Donald Trump is a potentially dangerous president like none before him. But he is only part of the equation as Vladimir Putin is salivating at the potential for more international influence, the lifting of sanctions for his incursions into Eastern Europe and the likelihood of wars in Europe and elsewhere in the process. 
     President Obama has yet to step down and Trump has already inspired hateful acts, worried foreign nations and upset their relationship with China. Internationally the extremist right around the world is reading Trump’s presidency as a vindication of all sorts of regressive acts against immigrants, minorities, women, the LGBTQ community, refugees, journalists and others. The possibility that Trump’s presidency might influence political upstarts, even here in Thunder Bay, using ugly Trump rhetoric and tactics to vie for political power is worrying and very real. 
    In our city worries about minority groups and immigrants affecting the larger group financially and culturally are unfounded and hardly worth laser focus. Our real problems involve high rent, lack of affordable housing, lack of jobs and the difficulties involved in starting a business. These are profoundly more important. But these issues and others can be ignored or played down during an election by someone cleverly Trumping other voices.  
   Artists voices needn't be silent, during an election or any other time. Artists are a strange and sensitive bunch with both great and bizarre traits. They are often at odds when it comes to their art, but what they most usually agree upon is that diversity is a plus. The freedom for an individual to express herself is fundamental to an artist. They have been known to speak out against anyone or anything that might deny a person’s ability to express themselves. Yet, as is all too human, artists fall into camps of thought, grouping themselves by their peculiarities of interest, stereotypes or ideologies that often remove them from the interests of a larger public. 
     It’s time for artists to step out of their comfort zone as this is one of those rare times when the democracy that supports and defends their divergent interests could be used against them. As faulty as democracy is, democracy really needs help from artists. Artists have to hold off on their aesthetic experiments and naval gazing that produces a subjective art for the wealthy one percent. Artists have to hold off on painting yet another barn, pretty flowers or Sleeping Giant. Cartoonists and comic book artists have to hold off or set to work their cartoon characters and superheroes on a cause greater than the comic book world. It’s time to get political. Time to get nasty and pointed in order to expose anyone spouting hatred and division. Artists have to get nasty to fight the nasty people. It’s time to stir things up with honesty and commit to positive change and action for a better world. We were on the right track with progress, as slow as it was. We can’t let everything slide backwards. 
   I can only imagine that as an artist you’ll enlarge your fanbase. As we artists are often known to the public for being condescendingly critical of their majority, their slow grasp or desire for change and inability to see the value in what we do. But we can win them over by doing what we’ve done best whenever and wherever democracies have allowed us to “enlarge and enhance man’s mental and moral nature.” For if we deserve to be looked up to for our ability to reflect on our inner selves and the world around us, then we should also be able to actively take part in the world that allows us our frivolities and idiosyncrasies. Rather than simply live in the world, comment on it and react to it, we can change it. We can be the artists who made things happen. How? Well, if you’re the artist. Use your imagination.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Elizabeth Buset at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery: Swine

This little piggy went to market,
This little piggy stayed home,
This little piggy had roast beef
This little piggy had none,
And this little piggy cried wee wee wee all the way to the Thunder Bay Art Gallery by way of the slaughterhouse to be featured in uncompromising detail in Elizabeth Buset’s solo show, Swine. 
     The bulk of this show, comprised of installation pieces with an audio element are five large oil paintings that are amazing displays of technical craftsmanship, detail, and commitment to a ongoing worthwhile political and social statement. 
     The size of the paintings, the size of the pig heads and amount of detail create a sense of awe, which you may find combines with a sense of unease. You can admire these paintings for their detail and accuracy, the use of colour, and the amazing ability of paint to mimic skin. Which is why Buset’s use of paint dissolve the surface of the paintings into reality. A painting done using other techniques, such as thick, broad colourful brush strokes would be attractive, but then the painting becomes more about technique and less about the subject. 
    High realism, although most often cold and lacking obvious dynamism has the benefit of being both admired for the workmanship while allowing the viewer to be fully engulfed, with access to the subject in glorious and gory detail in a way that no photographer could ever capture, especially on such a grand scale. Various kinds of paint, manipulated subtly by the human hand can have effects that are otherworldly. 
    While we feel sorry for the pigs and for liking the paintings despite the carnage, we also wonder at the startling contrasts that Buset has supplied for us to contemplate. The human tokens that the pigs wear are colourful and associated to activities we do for fun, creating a sort of dialogue between the pigs’ heads and the tokens. The tokens insult the respect we should have for the poor pig who gave up its life for our consumption, while the activities associated with the tokens are put into question. 
     Like a serial killer from a cop show who plays with our perceptions of what is right and wrong, Buset plays with the associations we have with popular culture. The Batman mask or Minnie Mouse bow are supposed to be fun, but placed on a dead pig’s head the fun becomes a bit of a horror show calling into question the purpose of the imagery. For Buset, that purpose is to make us think, to reflect on the kind of destruction that comes from blindly buying into a culture of mass production. 
     Buset rightly points out that it is our consumption that is destroying our planet. So hopefully, that sense of unease you feel may stay with you when you next feel the urge to consume. 
     The work Collective Guilt, which takes up a huge space along one wall is of many pig masks ordered from Shanghai. Without strings to fix the mask to a person’s head you might first wonder if the pigs’ faces were torn from their bodies. Combined in this way on the wall the faces engulf you and stare at you. You might feel guilt. You might wonder how many pigs you’ve consumed in your lifetime. Pigs are, after all, as intelligent as monkeys, smarter than dogs. Here there is a moral issue with what and how much you eat. However, the message is not only that little animal lives are being destroyed by our consumption, it is also that our lives are being whittled away piece by piece by our insatiable North American need for happy little plastic products and the ideologies associated with them supplied to us by corporations and governments who don't always have our best interests at heart. 
     So it’s wonderful to see Buset take up the very real and contemporary cause that conflict with North America’s blind run to make money as represented by Trump’s America. Buset states, “I am very satisfied with this exhibition. Everything from its creation, to display, to the conversations it has started has made every hour painting worth it.” 
    And there were a lot of hours involved. “Swine took three years, or around four thousand hours to complete. That is a lot of time to be alone in the studio. To fill the time I listen to audiobooks and podcasts, many of which were about socio-poetical ideas and observations. Creating this series was a form of research and self-education. It clarified my identity and purpose as a political artist.” 
    “I was first introduced to large scale painting during my HBFA. Painting students were asked to recreate a famous painting and I chose a work by the American Realist, Philip Pearlstein. Through that exercise I realized the physical and psychological impact of scale in art.” 
     This is Buset’s third solo show, with two previous shows held at the Definitely Superior Art Gallery. “In comparison to my other solo exhibitions I believe SWINE is my most mature and fully realized series…. Swine is unique because it is the first time I have included installation elements, printmaking and interactive art stations to help augment my content and educate my audiences.”

Friday, 2 December 2016

Oxen of the Sun: John Books at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery


Emblematic works of bronze sculptures by John Books at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery inhabit and reference the human condition in ways that are dramatic and subtle, historic and present day. You have to be a bit crazy to dedicate your life to such an intensive art form. In John’s case it’s an unending love for exploration of the medium, one that generates a sense of awe and respect for anyone who knows something of the complicated process involved. That process gives bronze sculptures the advantage of being taken more seriously over other forms of art, partly because the expense and process weed out artists who have little talent or patience. Most often works of bronze are truly great and John’s work is no exception.
      Another reason for respecting the medium is that bronzes will last for thousands of years. They immediately resonate with history. And aware of this John has added features that further deepen connections with the past. A beckoning pathway of canvas with topographical footprints stretches across the floor amongst tall ochre lichen earth coloured podiums and walls. The canvas imitates the impressions made by the first humans. The dramatic podiums encourage reflection upon the small sculptures that animate their tops. When in your hands the weight and solidity of the sculptures will take on new dimensions. Along with being encouraged to hold most of the pieces, John also welcomes photography of his works.
          John is interested in sharing his love of art as best he can and he’s particularly proud of this show, putting a lifetime of knowledge into his work so much so that he’s currently taking a breather. This is a signature show revealing a mature artist in love with life, art and literature with an endearing commitment to an exploration of the human subject with all its glories and foibles.
  After thirty years of living in Thunder Bay John now lives in Grand Marais where he continues his study. “in the past two years I have taken workshops using techniques from two thousand years ago that were used to make moulds and pour bronze.” Results of these and other process span works in the show created from 2009 to the present.   
     “I really like where this show went artistically. I feel like I stepped into myself, intellectually and as an artist. Emotionally too.” 
     The bell placed centrally in the show over the pathway is of special significance to John. “I lost a brother a year ago and always wanted to do a commemorative piece for him. For a long while it was a piece of wood I was carving. And then I made the ringer. And I thought of my brother.”
  Of the show, John says, “It was a delight that it came together. It was very satisfying.” John adds, “It looks like I’m taking a break. I don’t know where to go from here. I’ve been thinking about this show for years. I’ve been writing for the past few months and its’ been the writing that’s pulling me together. It’s not postpartum depression. It’s just breathing.”
    A good deal of equipment and tools are required when John proceeds with the 24 to 30 steps in the process from moulding a model in microcrystalline foundry wax, carving it with various tools, then applying wax “pipes” to bring the molten metal uniformly to the mould, brushing it with alcohol and varnish, dipping it into a chemical soup of ceramic material a number of times, sprinkling or rolling it in sand with a final coating of slurry that is a centimetre thick. The piece is suspended while it dries. The wax is carefully melted from the ceramic mould with a propane torch so the mould becomes hollow. The piece gets fired in a furnace at 2000 F for an hour, buried in sand or cast in resin. The bronze is melted in a furnace and poured into the cup on the top of the sculpture. When cooled the mould is removed with a hammer and chisel. It might get sandblasted, then is filed, ground, after which a wax finish and patina are applied. And be aware, this is just a harshly abbreviated version of John’s description of the process.

     John Book’s show, Oxen of the Sun runs till January 8 at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery. 

Tim Boyce at Espresso Joya

     The Espresso Joya coffeehouse on Cumberland, corner to Red River Road, is currently adorned with unique and fresh paintings of solitary colourful birds perched happily, yet boldly against contrasting backgrounds inspired by the work of modernist painters. 
     Tim Boyce’s affinity for birds began at an early age growing up in Stanley and Neebing areas on the outskirts of Thunder Bay. “There was always a pair of binoculars out at the house and my mother always put out plenty of bird feeders. We had these huge windows and I would sit there for hours watching the birds,” says Tim. 
      Living in various townships can make for a solitary life for a child and can encourage a dedication to various hobbies, including drawing, which was something Tim took to immediately. Tim says, “I could zone out with drawing. It was an escape from reality when I was a kid. I wasn’t much of a painter until I went to university.” 
     There was little confusion in his mind as to where he wanted to go with his work. In the Lakehead University Visual Arts program Tim practiced and studied the fundamentals of a modernist approach brought about by his interest in Piet Mondrian, Gustav Klimt and Pablo Picasso. Yet he never abandoned what he calls his classical approach to painting, as seen in the kind of realist detail and stalwart poses of the birds. To paint them he works with acrylic, painting on canvas garnering imagery from nature, photos, and his imagination.
      Birds can be perennial symbols of freedom, frivolity, and life in general. In Tim’s paintings they seem to be at odds with the seemingly out of focus modernist backgrounds, which also act as a perspective trick to give the painting some depth where the paintings would otherwise appear quite flat. The backgrounds also help to make symbolic reference not only to Tim’s favourite modernist artists, but with our modern world as represented by block-like shapes and sheens of metallic iridescent colouring. “I think it’s really important to balance our natural world with urban cities of today,” says Tim describing his concerns for humanity’s need for industry at the expense of our natural world. “I hope this series expresses my feelings on these particular issues.“
   “I use the block or cube shape for symbolic reasons to mimic human urban development - a sort of natural urban reference.” Although the references are subdued and the paintings come across more readily as pretty pictures than grand statements it wouldn’t be hard for Tim to generate more interesting works by tweaking the contrasts a bit more. And this is what he is planning to do, continuing with his chosen subject and themes. 
     He does his painting in his spare time while working his day job at the Balmoral Centre of the St. Joseph’s Hospital as an addictions crisis worker, a job that firmly grounds his life in reality giving him an understanding of the frailty of human life. In fact it could be said that the birds might represent people dealing with a modern world. This might not be a stretch and a reason for Tim to find so much affinity with the subject matter.

      Having his paintings as a set backdrop for a feature film, a psychological thriller called “Poor Agnes” just last week and having sold two rather expensive, yet reasonably priced paintings from the Espresso show Tim is stoked to do more work, have more shows and explore the possibility of making a mark in Thunder Bay. He’s certainly capable and got a popular subject matter. Familiar with many of the birds traits, habits and some of the science involved in their study, Tim says. “I admire birds. They are simple yet complicated. I love that duality.”

H&R Cartoon

Pottery at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery

In lieu of missing text due to Donald Trump (I got mad during the last debate and spilt a dribble of hot chocolate on my laptop that fried it), I am posting pictures for now while I wait for text to come from the Chronicle Journal. 

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Hardball and Riley Like Art

Michelle Krys and Amy Jones

    Are you looking for great books written by local authors? Have you thought about writing a novel? Three of Thunder Bay’s top authors are happy to talk about their work and to give us an idea of what it means to be a novelist. Michelle Krys and Amy Jones are professional authors who make a living doing what they love. They are relatively young and have achieved national and even international attention. They get healthy advances and are promoted by their publishers. However, they cannot remain idle. In a business that waxes and wanes with economic and technological shifts, authors are required not only to do the research, writing, editing, worrying and time-management required to the get the book written, they also do extracurricular work to help promote their published works. 
     Michelle Krys’ fourth novel is in the hands of her agent while her third novel, Dead Girls Society, is about to be released on November 8. And with it she will do book tours in the United States and Canada. Michelle is stoked to chat about the details of her progress and the ins-and-outs of the industry. Her enthusiasm is contagious and it’s hard not to feel the glow that exudes from a truly charismatic author. 
     Michelle is keenly aware of how fortunate she is to have had so much success with her first novel, Hexed, a young adult novel about a teenage cheerleading witch.  Continued success followed with, Charmed. Michelle’s phenomenal success is unusual for a Canadian writer requiring hard work, imagination, due writing diligence and likely a bit of good luck.
      It takes quite a number of deep breaths to embark on writing a first novel, but Michelle was wise enough to get support from a collective of writer friends in both Canada and the United States. Michelle then approached over a 130 agents to find one who saw her potential. Michelle’s agent shopped her novel around and got a great deal, an amazing advance for a first time author and publicity that even established Canadian writers dream about, something she didn’t at first appreciate until the debut of he second novel.
     Getting a good book on the shelves is a long process and being an author is an ongoing full time job, not as some people assume like winning the lottery. For while her agent has a fourth novel being looked over by an editor, the publisher has to take the book to an acquisitions department where they decide what kind of offer to make after they have drawn up a risk benefit ratio to determine whether or not they can take a risk on it. “They ask, who would read it? Who would sell it? Would chain companies like them? How many would they buy? The process is huge,” says Michelle. 
     After reworking the novel for the agent and then the publisher Michelle works on a pre-order campaign to help promote the book using social media; Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and a blog.
     Michelle explains. “Once you have books out it’s important to have a cascading effect take place where interest builds for the launch of the new book, like a special websites with secret codes and special invitations with exclusive material for big fans of the books.” All of this can be a burden, but Michelle understands that it’s part of the job, something she relishes because she genuinely adores her fans. “I’m aware of how lucky I am and I love creating stories.”
      At home, Michelle slams out two thousand words whenever she gets the chance. Being a wife, a mother of two while working part-time as a NCIU nurse plays interference with being a writer, but she’s thankful for all that she has, including a good group of local and international friends to boot.
     With advice for first time novelists, Michelle says, “Hardship and dreaming are compatible friends on a path to success or failure. To much hardship could make you bitter and too much dreaming could blind you from seeing who you really are that only others can see, but are afraid to tell.” 
      Michelle sees one of the benefits of her success as encouraging others to write for themselves or to become readers, as people have told her that it’s the first time they’ve picked up a novel in years. Even at the young age of thirty-one, Michelle Krys remains practical about the chances of continuing to hold a mass audience for decades on. It’s very likely she will. “It is truly inspiring to know that all that hardship may not have been wasted after all, after all that dreaming.”
 Amy Jones says, “Whatever path you choose, nothing is going to happen overnight. It doesn’t matter who you are, you’re going to get rejected.” Amy’s contagious smile is part of a continued high she is riding with the success of her first novel, We’re All In This Together. “Writing is the kind of thing that the more you do the better you get,” Amy adds.
     Inspiration for the novel came with both wanting to write a story set in urban Thunder Bay and wondering if anyone had gone over Kakabeka Falls in a barrel. “I felt it was important to write about a place in which you live,” says Amy. “There are a few themes I’m obsessed with. I’m interested in home and what home means for people, that conflict in wanting to stay in a place familiar to them while simultaneously wanting to leave and see what they can make of their life when leaving isn’t necessarily what they want.” Amy later adds, “I like the idea of outsiders, people who don’t fit in with their family or their city, society.”
     When asked if the characters in her novel are based on friends or relatives, Amy says, “There will always be elements of people I know. There might be a personality trait I borrow, but there’s no person that is actually connected to the story. They’re figments of my imagination.”
     Amy’s book was on a Canadian bestseller list for a few weeks after the book first came out. Already selling a second printing, Amy says, “My expectations coming going into it were pretty low.” But with critically positive reviews in Quill and Quire and the Globe and Mail she was quickly landing gigs at writer’s festivals, in Peterborough, Halifax, Word on the Street in Toronto, and a writer’s festival in Vancouver.
     The Thunder Bay Public Library has chosen Amy’s book for One Book, One Community events, an initiative where a city’s library chooses a book that everyone is encouraged to read while hosting events inspired by and related to the book.
      Amy is thankful Amy is particular in her acknowledgement of the help she’s received from her agent who acts as an advocate for the work. Amy says, “Agents will often be former editors of publishing companies, so he has an ability to see things from both sites, the marketing and business sides of things. He was able to give me advice on that, basically he does everything. He gave me the big picture to get it ready for publishers. He knew where it would be a good fit.”
     Soon Amy was talking to the editor of the publishing company who wanted revisions to improve the story’s pacing and continuity. From there the book went to a copy editor and proofer, while Amy’s agent worked with these people as a team, as he has done before on other book projects. The entire process took about a year.   
      “Writers can be perfectly fine without an agent,” says Amy. “It works very well for a lot of people, but a lot don’t need an agent to find a publisher, but for me the less I have to worry about the more I have to do my work.”      
      Amy is under a bit of pressure as she signed a contract requiring her to produce a second book for the publisher. But she’s not worried. “Ideas have never been the problem. I have too many ideas. It’s just a matter of making it all fit together. And I worry about, like, whether I’m going to write in the first or third person.” 

Sunday, 28 August 2016

"The Teaching is the Making" at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery

    Ending soon, September 4th, at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery is “The Teaching is the Making” featuring the beautiful works of Leanna Marshall and Celeste Pedri-Spade. The show combines two very different approaches to reestablish and enliven First Nations culture by bringing forth the past to the present and highlights how different traditional and contemporary mediums can accomplish such a feat.
     As an Anishinabekwe from Lac Des Mille Lacs First Nation, Pedri-Spade is a member of the Bear Clan. She fills the roles of mother, all round creative person, and teaches at the School of Northern and Community Studies at Laurentian University. She teaches “courses on Indigenous art, culture, photography, qualitative research and modern material culture.”
     With experience in the visual arts Celeste works with textiles and photography to explore “modern material culture” with an activist’s role in decolonization. This is an interesting and worthwhile process where a person or group researches a subject to fully comprehend the history with the intention to actively resurrect the culture from its colonial past. The extent to how this is made possible depends on what is recorded and remembered and then how much of that is viable in the present day. Cultures shift and blend, degrade and progress, so restoration in whatever manner has to be picked up again and celebrated.
      Chance, choice and change, as the Canadian historian George Woodcock noted are the preeminent determiners of history. And a major part of that change, in a very positive way, are artists willing to explore the past to reveal it afresh and possibly find new ways to celebrate a culture once targeted for extinction by an invading culture.
      Celeste’s commitment and determination is definitely felt in her photography where the images bounce between past and present. As juxtapositions with heart and soul they create a variety of endearing, somber, and reflective feeling about the passage of time and a changing world. They resonate with humanism. As we peer into someone else’s personal visual history we simultaneously wonder about our own involvement, our own history. What were our ancestor’s up to? How long were they here? From where did they come?
     A culture to be viable has to be actively performed and celebrated, seen, heard, smelt and felt by lots of people with all that can enrich an individual in a group to bind them spiritually with their kin and friends. Such is the case with Leanna Marshall’s work where the jingle dresses sitting in a gallery are a treat to have available for close inspection, are typically put to use, but here Leanne intends for them to be something more than dresses.
     Leanna Marshall has been making jingle dresses since 2006. As Leanna describes. “My jingle dresses or ‘story dresses’ as I like to call them are from a project called Ziigiidwin, meaning love.” And the dresses show it. Although not ceremonial, they have that aliveness to them, replete with fascinating colour and a sense of mystery about them. The dresses stand as if they are speaking or just ready to make music.
     “The inspiration for Ziigiidiwin came from an awareness of the anger that I was feeling. It was around this time that my mother spoke at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I realized that the anger that I have carried with me my entire life was the outcome of colonial, sexist, & racist policies, the Indian Act, residential schools, and Bill C-31 that govern First Nations people in Canada; and how the effects of the policies trickles down into people's lives in very real and very tragic and sad ways.”
     “My people carry a lot of pain and suffering that is directly because of policies created and enforced by the Canadian government and by mainstream society that live behind and within a colonial context. That is why I feel angry... because of the suffering and the sadness within my own family; and within myself.” 
      Leanna began making jingle dresses since 2006. As part of the Anemki Art Collective she worked with Jean Marshall and Christian Chapman who both contributed to the project. The audio component to the exhibition tells the stories of the dresses. In them you will “hear the love, the pride, the joy, the strength, the relationships, the language and the land.”
    Describing one particular dress with the title, ‘She Swims with the Fishes,’ Leanna states that the dress honour “the women murdered on the ships and where bodies have been placed in Lake Superior. Importantly, this dress explores how men view Indigenous women and the historical context in which Indigenous women have been and continue to be devalued.” 
      Leanna isn’t referring only to history, but to what is an ongoing tragedy in Canada.  Visit the CNN website and search for a story that came out a few days ago titled: ‘Canadian Teens Sold for Sex.’
      Leanna continues. “I don't see the dresses as ‘art objects.’ For me they each have a spirit, they came from somewhere and they will continue to travel forth. The women who dance in these dresses when the show is complete will continue the stories and the healing. In artworld speak all of the dresses are ‘wearable art.’ We chose deliberately not to do a 'performance' because of the intent and spirit of the dresses wasn't to entertain. They were created to heal, share, inspire, and connect."