In her element as a mother, artist and partner to a talented musician, Candace Twance is full of smiles, ideas, and energy. Her buoyant spirit is infectious and evident in her colourful and dynamic paintings. You can see in the images above how she plays and/or experiments with technique and style.
Candace grew up with two brothers and two sisters in Port Arthur and hails from Pic Mobert Reserve, four hours East of Thunder Bay. She studied Fine Arts at Lakehead University, and while focusing on painting, she states, “Lakehead sped up my skill development and I was able to try different things… learn different techniques and see what style I was most drawn to.”
With Ojibwe and Ukrainian ancestry, Candace says, “I’m always going to be described as an indigenous artist, and although my work could be seen as woodland, it is contemporary. I incorporate mixed media and abstraction, but my work is always figurative and narrative. I’m interested in people from my community, my native ancestors.”
Her latest series, including four large-scale paintings, incorporate people into woodlands themes. “I smush a lot of beads and objects into my paintings, in an abstract way. I’m incorporating craft into dynamic abstract images that are tied to the land.”
Candace has received three grants to help her with her work, so she’s grateful for the support of the Aboriginal Arts Grant and the Ontario Arts Council that have helped keep her full time as an artist. “Lately I’ve been getting a lot of commissions, portrait works mostly. So I’m doing that as well.”
Recent inspiration has come from photographs taken early in the 20th century. “My dad has a bunch of black and white photographs of my family and community. Many are old fur trade images. No one is smiling,” she laughs. “They’re not like the Curtis photos. They’re wearing modern clothing and are really cool and inspiring, so I’m incorporating them into my paintings.”
Candace is also doing research for another series, beginning with a large instillation piece. “It’s going to require a big space. I want to show, in layers, spirit realms… as homage to my ancestors, so I’m going to produce a section of a house with ordinary objects made extraordinary. I want to express, through different sensory elements using light and sound, the existence of a different realm to give a sense of presence in a room that is invisible.” Candace smiles and waves her hands in rejection, “But not like a haunted house.”
Again, expressive with her hands, Candace looks to the ceiling, thinking aloud. “Have you ever gone into to an abandoned house, a special place, a sacred place, with ordinary items, but all elevated somehow? I want to do that, through adornment and create a surreal experience. I want to provoke that feeling from people. I’ve wanted to do an instillation like this for a long time. And I’d love to tour it to communities, to reserves.”
With two young children Candace has trouble finding time to paint, but she grabs an hour or two when she can. However while she’s caring for her children, she plans out ideas. “I formulate what I’m going to do in my mind so by the time I come to paint I have a pretty good idea of what I’m going to do.”
Candace wants her children to follow their own path, yet hopes they will have an appreciation of art. “They motivate me to be successful. I wouldn’t say they inspire my work,” she laughs. “Don’t write that! It sounds so mean. Well… it’s inevitable that they will influence my art, and I do want to leave them a legacy.”
Reflective of her early start as an artist and the success she’s had already, she adds, “I think you’re born to be an artist. I was born to do this. I was always creative, but in my teenage years I had the realization that it didn’t just have to be a hobby. It could be a career, but it felt like a risk to go to school for art. I didn’t know what kind of job I could get. I had other interests like social work, you know, to make money. But life chooses you. You have to embrace it.”
Candace is also a musician, writing songs and playing guitar. Her partner Nick Sherman is a musician, who is releasing an album this May called, Knives and Wildrice. Candace and Nick both manage to make a living as artists. “Sometimes we look at each other and we’re amazed we’re doing this, that we’re going all in with our art. Some in our families ask, how do you do it? Some think of us as unemployed, but we’re both self-employed. I guess we’re lucky. When you choose to be an artist you’re either all in or you’re not.”
Candace sighs and with a big smile she adds, “Ugh! I want to do so much work. I just need some time!”
You can see some of Candace’s work at the new location of the Ahnisnabae Art Gallery downtown at 18 Court Street, HERE, and Candace Twance, Anishnaabe Artist on Facebook.