I am Métis. My studio work is an exploration of my place in a complex web of responsibility and relationship with the land, my people, and our history. Wahkohtowin is a word that refers to the natural laws of interconnectedness and reciprocal obligation among human beings and all aspects of the natural world.
Metis are known as the Floral Beadwork People. I work with our traditional textiles and methods of surface ornamentation. I also incorporate contemporary media, including fused glass, botanical printmaking, and photographs printed on silk.
My method of working is a dance between cultural knowledge (both intellectual and intuitive) and my materials, each inspiring and informing the other. I create layered images on natural fibers, which are combined with other elements to form textile collage and symbolic garments.
Whenever I need to explore a complex question, the creative process is the single most effective way I know to both excavate and express what I discover. For me, art is like Wahkohtowin, in that a single image or object can reflect the whole interconnected system.
Today, I create personal artifacts to hold what I know about my people and our relationships to one another and to the land.
Why do I make art… and why do I make art that honours the natural world?
Is it because my Métis blood carries memories from both my Cree and my Celtic ancestors… people who understood their place in Nature and revered the Creator and honoured the Earth herself? The poet Rilke said, “If we surrendered to earth’s intelligence, we could rise up rooted like trees.”
Did my rural Alberta upbringing indelibly imprint upon me the wonder of life – the profound beauty, and the tenacity and fragility that was reflected in the people, the plants, and the animals of the prairies?
Or is it because I now live in one of the most beautiful places I know, and the cedars and Salish Sea have made their way into my bones and blood? Is it possible that I cannot help but create art to honour the divine, ancient energy that pulses in the web of our beautiful island home?
Do I make art because I have experienced the profound healing power of creative expression, both personally and professionally as an art therapist? I integrate art-making into my workshops because bringing creativity, mindfulness and compassion to ourselves is essential if we are to bring compassion to our dear Earth and all its inhabitants.
Do I make this nature-inspired art to share the awe I feel in the liminal spaces between land and sea, sea and sky, the microscopic and the macro, the specific and that which is universal, including the sacred, fractal patterns that echo throughout all living things? I learned recently that my Cree and Métis ancestors had a name for the interconnectedness of all things – “Wahkohtowin” – a natural law and worldview pointing to the profound interrelated nature of all beings (living and non-living), and of all systems, including our human families and communities. The circle is a common metaphor for understanding Wahkohtowin and I wonder if that is why it is so prevalent in my art?
I don't know if these questions are pointing toward an answer for why the creative fire burns most brightly for me in the sacred space of Nature… However, what I do know is that that art-making is “the holy work,’…the real work, the work we were meant to do, the work that makes us whole.” – Phil Cousineau.
Métis leader Louis Riel said, “My people will sleep for one hundred years, but when they awake it will be the artists who give them their spirit back.”
Ojibway writer Richard Wagamese says there is hope for art: “Write, then. Paint. Sing. Act. Play. Raise through art the gamut of our collective humanity, our burgeoning spirit, so that Creator might see Herself in everything and smile.”