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fiddle

REFLECTIONS ON THE FUR TRADE (2011-2013)

This series was inspired by my studies in Canadian social history and European settlement. During my studies, I was able to link back to my own feelings as a person of mixed heritage and as a hunter. Some of the ideas explored are based on patriotism, politics, conservation and emotional struggles.

Srivensnow torment rise

TOP: Alicia's Fiddle (detail), 2012.
ABOVE (L-R): Driven Like the Snow, 2011; Torment of the Heart's Desires (detail), 2011; Rise of a Nation (detail), 2011
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ON BEING METIS (2010-2012)

What started out as a journey to find my ancestry led me to explore my country’s history in a deeply intimate way. The recent discoveries I made brought me closer to my ancestors but also brought me closer to myself. I was forced to reflect on my own life and the ties that had been making an impact on me since the day I was born. From an educational standpoint, I realized that the Canadian social history I learned growing up in school - in all its richness, victories and atrocities - was never taught very accurately. As an artist, I couldn’t help myself but express the thoughts and feelings that came out from this learning. This series of works ended up being a statement about Canadian social history and also my place within it.

family connected heart

The paintings in this section are inspired by the Métis culture and specifically its symbols. The Métis were known as the “Flower Beadwork People”. Métis art developed from a blend of styles from both European (mainly French in Ontario and the east) and Native cultures. The symmetrical floral patterns were inspired by European floral designs but created with the geometric and linear tendencies of the Native style. Silk embroidery was introduced to young Métis girls at Mission Schools by the Ursuline Nuns. Beadwork was often done on clothing, bags and even horse saddles, and the items were traded throughout North America and Europe. However, Europeans wanted to buy their art from “real” Native people. The Métis were often forced to sell their art to Native groups who would then resell it to the European traders. Because the Métis never signed their art, it became impossible to trace it back to the person who created it. That is why we know very little about Métis art today and why the style has, until recently, been attributed to the Plains Cree. Amazingly, from an art history perspective, the time period that academics identify as the Classical period of Métis art was over before the Métis were even recognized as a distinct group of people! What’s even more exciting is the suggestion that the distinctive Métis art, which is the blending of First Nations and European art forms into a new art form, could be considered the first Canadian art form.*

The Métis sash is a fingerweaved sash typically made of wool. It was widely used by the Voyageurs and Coureurs-des-bois as a belt and a tool to help them carry, pull and haul large items while on their travels, and in first aid in case of injury. The colours of the belt were predominantly red with blue, green, yellow and white weaved within the pattern. However, predominantly blue belts were also made and used for funerals or as a means of identification between the Voyageurs and the Coureurs-des-bois.

*Reference: “The New Peoples: Being and Becoming Métis in North America”, edited by Jacqueline Peterson and Jennifer S. H. Brown,
The University of Manitoba Press, 1985, ISBN: 0-88755-617-5.

© Nathalie Bertin, 2009-2017.
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