the forest is a doorway
February 3 – March 24, 2023
Tree sloughs and windbreaks dot and break up the fields of Saskatchewan, small patches of the wild within the carefully cultivated field. Whether settler-planted or existing before colonization, these small areas of miniature forest call back to the collective memory and mythology that forests have occupied within the European and European-Canadian psyche. When I drive past them or hike through them, I think of these little tree breaks as a liminal space: a portal that takes me back to the places my ancestors are from and a spiritual place that might be used as a sacred area to reconnect with earth honouring folk practices long-lost by settlers. What might these practices and relationships look like, in a new context and with new practitioners? Considering the prosaic and practical relationships cultivated by Euro-settlers to the prairies, I bring forth the Old Ways and the Old Gods as a methodology to explore my complex relationship to cultural identity and land: neither fully German nor British, but never wholly Canadian due to anti-German exclusion following the second world war.
Oppositionally, as well as being places of reverence and connection, I consider these forested areas a place of menace and danger. Lore is filled with the contrasting nature of the forest, as both a protector and source of sustenance and a place where danger lurks. Similarly, looking into these ancient folk practices brings up darker times of blood and sacrifice. Even as these practices experience positive areas of revival, white supremacists and their associated movements are eager to co-opt European folk imagery and tradition to assert a type of cultural dominance. There is a strong association of shame with many of these traditions, particularly for Germans and German-Canadians. How might settler Canadians interested in these practices not use them to replace or supplant Indigenous practices? How might I revisit these practices in their colonial complexity and address guilt and shame while making connections to Euro-folk tradition and community? The forest seems like a place that can hold these complexities and nuances, creating space for conversations and considerations outside the digital and social media sphere where they commonly occur now.
The exhibition title is “the forest is a doorway,” and the title of each piece comes from a poem written by Kirsty Logan called “Once Upon a Forest.” Reflecting the multi-faceted personality of the forest, folklore, and people, this poem has heavily influenced the imagery and language of this work.
Jess Richter, Artist Statement, 2023
The Spirit of Nature – Looking Beyond Yourself
Circulated by the Organization of Saskatchewan Arts Councils
February 3 – March 24, 2023
My name is Phyllis Poitras-Jarrett. I am a contemporary Métis artist living in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. Poitras is my mom’s maiden name; she is a proud Métis matriarch. Both my Kokum and Mooshum’s homelands were near the Red River. Jarrett is my loving father’s Scottish-English name, only with us in spirit. I graduated from the Saskatchewan Urban Natives Teaching program and retired from a rewarding career of teaching after 28 year. I now have plenty of time to create art once again.
My art celebrates traditional Indigenous worldview and harmony with all sources of life. Animals, plants, insects, land, water and air hold equal value on earth. We must be mindful of our daily footprints by respecting and caring for Mother Earth. These life elements are referred to as “All My Relations” by Indigenous people. The deep respect that Indigenous people have with nature is woven into kinship systems, as with clans, in storytelling and in ceremonial practices and has been present for thousands of years. In Canada we have over 50 Indigenous Nations with diverse beliefs and practices unique to their Nation’s cultures and to individuals within those communities. Some individuals within each Nation embrace traditional spiritual practices that overlap with contemporary religious beliefs.
In my art the Spirit animals symbolize the qualities and values that every person has within themselves. Embracing these values will create conditions for our lights to shine bright on our life journeys. A mindful, kind loving society generates more energy and space to be present. The result is more time to look beyond ourselves and notice that Mother Nature has always provided us with abundant gifts of clean air, water, and food to keep us alive. For our health and survival we must realize that taking care of Mother Earth and her gifts is a priority.
My art also highlights diversity in nature represented by animal motifs and colourful symmetrical Métis floral beadwork. Each bead, flower and animal is part of something greater. The grey background and white flowers represent the greater universe. Hidden within each painting is a glass spirit bead, which in traditional Métis beadwork was an off colour or misplaced bead. The spirit bead symbolizes humanity’s disruptive imperfections. This reminds us that each day is an opportunity to make improvements in ourselves for the betterment of “All of Our Relations”. When humankind recognizes that we are the stewards of Mother Earth we can begin restoring health, harmony and balance in our lives and the natural world.
My art, like most artists, is shaped by my experiences from my past and present, my cultural background and my love for nature. I am a self taught artist and have been naturally creative since childhood. I was raised on a farm in Saskatchewan a mile from Last Mountain Lake. I come from a large family and I am one of six siblings. As farm children we worked incredibly hard, we were farm hands. My escape was drawing upstairs in front of a small window. I remember it being filled with an inch of beautiful frosty designs in the winter. During the summer my mom was constantly wondering where I snuck off too. I would hike across the countryside alone for hours, always in search of a glimpse of animals, birds, insects and beautiful wildflowers. One of my favourite discoveries in the spring was a chrysalis. I would often take them home to watch the cycle of life stages. I would let them free after being in awe of the emerging gorgeous butterflies and moths. I felt like one with nature and the land and had our farm dogs to keep me safe on my ventures.
My Kokum’s (Celina Parisien – maiden name) creativity and determination inspired my art. She lived in a two room house on Jackrabbit Street on the road allowance in Lebret, Saskatchewan. There she brought up 11 children with her husband Grégoire Poitras. Years later during the winter months she lived with us, as her home lacked amenities. Lovingly we would string beads for her gorgeous necklaces. For our efforts she gave us a nickel per string, which would go full circle in an evening game of rummy.
I also acknowledge the Seven Grandfather Teachings within my art. They are the most commonly shared values across Indigenous Nations in Canada. The teachings originated with the Anishinaabe people. This belief system provides structure and guidance so one’s life is balanced mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Humility is represented by the wolf, courage by the bear, honesty by either the raven or the sabe, wisdom by the beaver, Love by the eagle and truth by the turtle.
When viewing my art individuals may feel some connections as they reflect on their own personal values and qualities within themselves and their circles. They may have an emotional reaction to the art that reminds them of the strength of a loved one, the wisdom of a community leader or the lightheartedness of children playing and laughing. Indigenous people who honour clan systems may have a cultural connection to a specific animal. Others that have had an experience with an animal constantly crossing their path or feel a special attachment to one may connect to that particular spirit animal. If you can find a little piece of yourself within my art, it has fulfilled its purpose. I created the descriptions to embody parts of each animal’s natural ways of being and personified them as if they were speaking to you as guides. The descriptions and meanings for each art piece are only a starting point.
Métis people have been known as the “Flower Beadwork People”, a name given to them by First Nations people. Beading was often a time to socialize and share stories. Some designs can be traced back to specific families. It’s amazing how our Kokum’s could sew such intricate symmetrical designs often by candle light. Today many Métis beadwork crafters are reclaiming our beading tradition. Métis women once took pride in embellishing their partner’s and children’s clothing and accessories with brightly coloured floral beadwork. Many of these artifacts are hidden away in museum collections tagged with the wrong Nation as the maker and with unknown as the artist. After the resistance of 1885 many women stopped beading as it was frowned upon and often forbidden. Families were also struggling to survive and beads became difficult to access. Thankfully this cultural practice has made a comeback amongst all Indigenous people. Our ancestor’s gorgeous symmetrical designs are still present today and are crafted on clothing, pouches, covers and jewelry. Métis floral beadwork is our way of celebrating our Kokum’s and giving thanks to the plant world that continues to provide us with an abundance of food, medicine and joy.
Art will always bring people together to celebrate our unique cultures and create a better understanding of our past and present realities. I sign my art with P. Poitras-Jarrett honouring both my Métis mother and my Scottish-English father.
I am dedicating this series to our Kokums and Aunties, our present day Métis beaders in their quest to reclaim our beautiful beadwork and to our Michif language teachers that are determined to reclaim our language. Most importantly I am dedicating this series to all of our Indigenous ancestors who suffered unbelievable injustices through the years. Their incredible resiliency and will to survive is present in our children today in both strength and love.
Thank you for letting me share my art with you!
– Artist statement, taken from the website of the artist.
Ufuk Gueray, Keeley Haftner, Laura Payne, Adrian Stimson, David Stonhouse Robert Taite: Plastic Rhymes
Amalie Atkins, Evelyn Spice Cherry, Clark Ferguson, Tasha Hubbard, Jessica MacCormack, Alexus Young, Brian Stockton: Laying Claim
Robyn Anderson: Nature and Other Terrible Things
The gallery has two exhibition spaces (Gallery I and Gallery II). The EAGM provides professional technical services for selected projects. The EAGM pays fees to artists and curators in accordance with CARFAC standards. Submitted projects are assessed and recommended for program inclusion by the curator. Please note that unless requested, we do not notify artists when a proposal has been received, and it can take some time for a decision to be made. Artists are always notified as to whether their submission has been selected for exhibition. Please note that our schedule is currently full for the near future, although we are happy to receive proposals to keep on file for future consideration.
Statement of Intent or a Specific Project Description
10 to 20 digital images or video files* or Photographs
(on video tape, CDR, DVD, or memory stick – if applicable)
Image Identification Page (Title, Medium, Size, Year, etc.)
*For digital images submit only .jpg files in RGB format at a resolution of 72 dpi, with a maximum size of 1.5 MB and a maximum of 1024 x 768 pixels.
Please include a self-addressed stamped envelope if you are submitting via mail and would like to have your submission returned to you.
Please email your propsal to
or via mail to:
Estevan Art Gallery and Museum
118 – 4th Street
Gallery 2: 69 Running Feet (Ceiling Height: 117″). View floorplan
Project Space: 14 Running Feet (Ceiling Height: (96″). View Floorplan
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* Galleries have 2′ x 2′ suspended ceilings.
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