The Shaman Zen performance art piece was a hit at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery’s June 23 opening reception for The Perspective From Here: 150 Artists from the North exhibition.
“I really hope people feel it, I really want it to be an experience,” says Elliott Doxtater-Wynn, an artist from Six Nations who created the performance art piece based on his artwork. “(I’m) using sound and light and movement and using different senses, even the trees and the cedar have a smell, so that everybody here is hopefully mesmerized by the experience and take away what they feel is important about it.”
Doxtater-Wynn says Shaman Zen is like an allegory on the use or misuse of nature.
“You have this hunter being doing what it does and there is this majestic forest spirit moving through this landscape who is keeping the land alive,” Doxtater-Wynn says. “And the forest beings that are watchers, they are the ones who are validating and seeing it and recording it, letting it be remembered.”
Anthony Esquega, an artist from Gull Bay, says his performance was about letting out some frustrations.
“Sometimes not being who you really are is frustrating when you are not allowed to let it show,” Esquega says. “So this was an opportunity to let it out, let it show, sing in a positive way with artistic expression. So every time I get to play on stage or play in an art performance, that is what I am doing — letting it out in a positive way so no one gets hurt and people can be influenced by it to do positive things.”
The Perspective From Here: 150 Artists from the North exhibition, which runs from June 22-Sept. 24, features the contemporary artwork of 150 artists who are from or once lived in northwestern Ontario. The exhibition is designed to offer a glimpse of the recent artistic past and present, while asking viewers to imagine the future. The artwork ranges from ceramics and textiles to paintings and photography.
“All this artwork here looks really nice,” says Darryl Big George, an artist from Big Island. “It’s amazing.”
Big George says his painting of four wolves represents the four directions.
“On the ground on the wolves, you will see faces,” Big George says. “Everything that lives goes to the ground, so that is the reason why I drew faces on the ground. And also on the ground there are rocks, for when you go to a sweat lodge.”
Cree Stevens, an artist from Red Rock Indian Band, says her Raven of Copper art piece started out as a wearable art piece.
“This year I decided I wanted to work with copper, and I wanted to work with a bird,” Stevens says. “I considered a Thunderbird, but I am really drawn to ravens. I wanted to mix the idea of different materials that are important to Indigenous peoples, such as copper and the raven, but take it to a sort of contemporary level.”
Leanne Marshall, an artist from Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug, says the two jingle dresses shown in photographs in the exhibition were a response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
“My mom spoke at the TRC and it was really difficult for me to hear some of her stories,” Marshall says. “So that jingle dress project came as a direct response to that. The response to the jingle dresses and to those photographs has been very positive.”
A roster of public events and online opportunities are scheduled to enliven and engage audiences with the thematic threads found throughout the exhibition.