Jessie Buchanan, an indigenous artist who lives and works in Guelph, will be taking part in an epic journey this summer alongside Evin Collis and Becky Thiessan as part of the Art Gallery of Winnipeg’s project ART EXPRESS’D/ART EXPRIMÉ. The project will see four 20-foot metal shipping containers, transformed into mobile art studios, traversing the nation via train, truck, and cargo ship over the summer months. Each artist will lead a collaborative art-making project with communities in every province and territory on their journey towards Winnipeg where the containers will be presented to the public for the city’s Nuit Blanche.
Inspired both by her Anishinabe (Ojibway) heritage and by her Euro-Canadian ancestry, Jessie Buchanan’s paintings are guided by the Woodland style and by the work of Emily Carr, Daphne Odjig, Nathalie Parenteau, Ted Harrison, and others. For her ART EXPRESS`D project, she will invite the public to illustrate through paint their connections to the land/environment and community, together rendering the spiritual geography of the northern Canadian landscape. Buchanan will be travelling on the North to South route: Inuvik, Whitehorse, Yellowknife, Churchill, and Rankin Inlet.
On her upcoming adventure Jessie said:
“As an indigenous artist, I am excited to find out more about Inuit culture and the other indigenous cultures of the north. These communities have such rich histories. I am hoping to learn more about how the communities there connect with those stories and their environments… the water and the land.”
ART EXPRESS’D/ART EXPRIMÉ was selected by the Department of Canadian Heritage as a Canada 150 Signature Initiative, the only one organized by a major art gallery, and one of just three from Manitoba. Canada 150 Signature Initiative projects aim to bring Canadians together to celebrate, participate in events and share experiences.
There has been some resistance to Canada 150 initiatives, with critiques focused around the issues of Canada’s history of colonialism, the past and ongoing treatment of indigenous communities, and the assimilation of Canada’s First Nations peoples. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report, including the 94 Calls to Action which address the relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians, was published over a year ago with limited progress since. In this context, the programmers of Canada 150 initiatives are setting the stage for contemporary dialogue.
Jessie shared about the complexities of navigating Canada 150 as an indigenous artist:
“As an indigenous person, I am celebrating 150 years of perseverance. It is really important to voice that perspective. I think it’s important to resist, but it is also important to engage… to be present for our communities and to meet with them. I am excited to celebrate culture but also reconciliation... Art starts where words stop. Art can bridge communities. There is a move through the arts to heal and advocate. I really feel that through the creative act there is the opportunity for healing and reconciliation.”
Follow Jessie on her incredible journey this summer through social media at her Facebook page or check the ART EXPRESS’D/ART EXPRIMÉ and the Winnipeg Art Gallery websites for more information.