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There is a movement happening on the plains and the driving force behind the scene is the newly formed Northern Plains Indian Artists' Association (NPIAA).
NPIAA founding members Lloyd Pinay and Darren Gowan came up with the idea of forming an association so that First Nations artist can work towards bringing much needed recognition to arts of the Northern Plains. The NPIAA began its journey in the spring of 2000.
"We see the development and growth of other artistic movements such as the Inuit, the North West Coast, the South West and with the Iroquois peoples. The Northern Plains has no common recognizable icon which is fixed in the public's imagination." says Darren Gowan, now the Director of the NPIAA.
"This is something we are trying to remedy," says Gowan. "We are working towards raising the profile of the Northern Plains Indian Artists nationally and internationally. This is something that the plains region is lacking. The possibilities and benefits for the artists is very exciting."
The NPIAA recently held their first group exhibit in Banff, Alberta on the grounds of the Buffalo Nations Luxton Museum. Presenting at the exhibit were: Lloyd Pinay, Eugene McNabb, Clarence Kapay, Arthur Jack, Ovide Bighetty, Ernie Scoles, Rob Jerome, Audrey Morris, Chad Morin, Ben Forrest, and Darren Gowan.
A cozy 1,200 sq. foot space marquis tent housed the artists and their works during the exhibit.
"Unfortunately, this year we were unable to include as many artists as we would have liked, due simply to size restrictions" says Gowan. "In the coming year we look forward to expand the show by increasing the number of artists."
With over 3000 people visiting the exhibition over the course of five days. The attending artists had the opportunity to represent their works to a true global audience.
"We were received very well from the townspeople and visitors." Gowan comments on the connections made during the exhibition. "The most common comment from the visitors was that about the incredible caliber and diversity of our work."
The show was made possible from grants and donations from Saskatchewan Arts Board, National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation, the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, and Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority.
Without the support of these organizations the NPIAA would not have been able to host the show. "It is truly a testament to what can happen when Indian people work together towards a common goal." acknowledges Gowan.
The NPIAA has been run on a volunteer basis, with thousands of hours being invested by individual members to develop the association and it's mandate.
There is a cross-section of style, medium, discipline and experience in the association, making for a truly dynamic and talent group. "Senior artists assist the younger artists with technical expertise and the association works together to disseminate information and promote each other's work." Gowan adds "Also, at the same time we can help each other to develop and grow as artists."
The association is currently looking for new membership. The NPIAA is eager to work with like-minded people. To contact the association contact: phone (306) 344-2590 or write to Box 367, Onion Lake Saskatchewan S0M 2E0. To view NPIAA website you can located it at: www.npiaa.com.
CHAD MORIN - Chad is a self taught artists, combines a variety of black and white, ink and lead, wild life art in a fantasy art form. This unique brand of art is inspired and symbolizes his aboriginal ancestry and culture. He was first introduced to his spiritualism at the age of ten, and still follows that way of life being drug and alcohol free. Respecting other people, their culture beliefs and treating everyone equally, is a part of his culture. Being family oriented and combined with his spiritualism are his biggest influences with his art. He would like to be an inspiration to everybody as a person and as an artist, to enjoy life and always believe in him or herself.
AUDREY MORRIS - Audrey is from Onion Lake, Saskatchewan and is the only girl of 6 children. She was born in Fort Vermilion, alberta and lived there until the family moved to Fort Pitt, just east of Onion Lake. The farm was 2 miles north of the old Hudson's Bay Trading Post, which is on the banks of the North Saskatchewan River. Her brothers taught her to hunt and fish, as that was always on their minds and the fort was a frequented spot. She was glad to be able to keep up to here brothers or be left behind to do the chores in the house - which is something she enjoyed trying to get out of.
This love of nature is reflected in her surrealistic abstract painting "God's Half Acre", a scene of the river where she grew up. For as long as the sun shines, the grass grows, and the water flows, reflects the spirit of the Treaties that were signed at Fort Pitt, bright and hopeful.
Audrey enjoys expressing herself on canvas and believes that art is healing not only for the Artist but also for the person(s) enjoying the art. "Millennium" is part of what her Mother lovingly refers to as the "Trinity Series" and is a vision for her people ready for the next century. The style she chose is reminiscent of stained glass blended with the legends of Turtle Island. Two worlds that come together yet are split down the centre, as she is part of two cultures the Neyheaw (round) and the monias (linear) to exemplify the healing that is coming to those who endured residential schools and their families. First, for the individual, then the family, and lastly, the nations of the world. It is her sincere desire that when people see her art, it brings healing to their mind and bodies. Audrey feels free to use colour and not conform to any genre, keeping true to herself.
Audrey is currently studying at the University of Saskatchewan, majoring in Aboriginal Justice and Criminology (ABJAC) and raising her two daughters.
CLARENCE KAPAY - Clarence is quickly gaining recognition for his artist work after just a few short years. Born on the Day Star Reserve, Saskatchewan, Kapay is a member of the Cree Nation.
Initially, he pursued an education in Journalism for native people, however, Kapay soon realized he was destined to be an artist. In 1993 Kapay convocated with a Bachelor of Visual Arts, gave himself three months to see if he could make inroads in the art industry, and after completing 13 paintings and selling ten, he was on his way.
Today, Kapay is known for his ability as a diverse artist. His works range from representational to semi-abstract. Kapay enjoys painting landscape, portraiture, and wildlife. Kapay's paintings often depict Indian life from the past and present highlighting his people's traditions, symbols, and spirituality.
1999 was a busy year for Kapay. He won the Artistic Award of Excellence from Tourism Saskatchewan for promoting Saskatchewan and it's beauty. Kapay attended several art shows including the prestigious Buckhorn Wildlife Art Show in Buckhorn, Ontario, and the Pacific Rim Art Exposition in Seattle, Washington.
The new millennium is also rather hectic, as Clarence was the only Saskatchewan artist chosen for the Ducks Unlimited Art Print Portfolio 2000. He participated in the Northern Plains Indian Artists' Association show held in Banff, Alberta in June. Also, Kapay was invited and participated in the Native Arts Pavilion at the July, 2000 Spruce Meadows - North American Event. Among other projects, Kapay was busy preparing for his return to the Buckhorn Wildlife Art Show, Buckhorn Ontario, held in August 2000.
Kapay's works can be found on the dust cover for the RCMP's 125th Anniversary book release "Red Coats on the Prairie". His images have also been used for promotion of business on city buses, as well as on compact disc/cassette covers, and business greeting cards etc.
LLOYD N. PINAY - The vital relationship of mankind to his environment is evident in the wide range of artwork done by Lloyd Pinay. At ease with both realism and surrealism, his self-taught style shows the experience of sculpting in stone and bronze.
Freedom and spirituality, central themes in his art, are also in his ancestry. Being a registered Treaty Indian, he can trace his forefathers for the Plains Ojibway, Plains Cree, and Sioux origins. The nomadic lifestyles they once enjoyed are a constant source of inspiration for the artist.
Pinay's artwork has been collected in exhibitions throughout the United States and Canada. It has won him acclaim in both juried exhibitions and monument commissions to honour his forefathers.
At present, Pinay sculpts and paints in northern Canada. He plans to continue developing his artwork with the belief that art can foster appreciation and preservation of the natural elements of the land.
EUGENE MCNABB - Eugene has a simple philosophy about his talent and passion, "paint how you feel."
Eugene uses oil acrylics and watercolours in his art, working in a mixed medium of realism, abstract, surrealism and free form.
Eugene is a member of the Peepeekisis Cree First Nation in Saskatchewan, but makes his home in Regina. He has been involved in artwork for approximately twenty-eight years. "My mother was an artist and I always wanted to be one"
ERNIE SCOLES - a member of the Barrens Land Indian Band, was born at Cumberland House, Saskatchewan in 1962, and raised in Northern Manitoba. It was here that he developed a deep feeling for nature and wildlife, taking advantage of every opportunity to explore the woods, lakes, and streams during his childhood and school years.
While living in Winnipeg, Ernie met Isaac Bignell, a well known Native Artist. Isaac got Ernie started first selling his paintings for him, and then taught him the art of painting. "Isaac was my mentor and inspiration, as well as my close friend", Ernie says. When Isaac had to fly out to Calgary one day, he couldn't find his paints. He told Ernie when they did show up, he could have them. "That's how I got my first set of paints, and what got me started and put me where I am today. I lost my good friend a few years back, he will be missed by my family as well as countless other friends, collectors and people who loved and admired his art. He will always be in the peoples hearts", Ernie says.
Largely self-taught and working in traditional Cree imagery Ernie finds:
"When I'm painting I have a great feeling of peace and harmony with nature and I feel a powerful connection between our creator and all living things. I believe my images reflect a oneness of nature and our human feelings. In my work I try to capture the spiritual interaction of life with the earth, sun, wind, and sky. I always hope that at least one person will like the image I have painted."
In 1992, Ernie was awarded the Governor General's Canada 125 Medal for his contributions to his community. He makes his home in Saskatoon with his wife Doreen, and their four children, Davian, Amanda, Cassandra, and Kalen.
ARTHUR JACK - From Alabaster to Moosehorn - Arthur can carve it. Arthur is an artist from Beauval Saskatchewan and sculpts in alabaster, soapstone, marble, moosehorn, wood, and bronze. His father is from Ahtahkakoop and his mother is from Big River First Nations.
Arthur is a self-taught sculptor, realized his talent at the age of ten, while he was staying with his grandmother. Arthur began carving what was to be the first piece in a long journey to what now has become his choice discipline.
Arthur's work has been collected by such famous people as: the Governor General of Canada, Garth Brooks, The Duke and Duchess of York. Among his clients, Arthur sells many pieces to FSIN, SIGA, Federal Government Officials and private business such as Yankee Transportation Co. His works have been brought world-wide - even as far away as Japan.
Arthur is able to carve anything he sets his mind to. He has never limited himself to one thing.
Arthur still hears his dad's words "never give up my boy, if they knock you down get back up and keep trying".
Living the life of an artist is something he still struggles with. "It is not as easy as people so often assume." says Arthur "but the support of family makes the choice of remaining an artist a lighter decision".
DARREN GOWAN - On the Cover of the Saskatchewan Indian is a sculpture done by Darren Gowan. The sculpture was done in steeitite.
"The relationship amongst humanity, the elements, and the entirety of creation are a large part of the inspiration of the works that balance between my idea and what the material will allow. It's a balancing act working with stone or antler".
Having the benefit of excellent mentors, Gowan is not self-taught.
"Certainly my style and approach to sculpting is my own, however I have been shown a few tricks about a few things from great many artists whom I respect and admire, so to say I am self-taught would be untrue."
Gowan is a Plains Cree and a member of the Day Star First Nation. He finds great satisfaction in his chosen career, growing and developing as an artist.
Gowan's works can be found predominantly in Western Canada in private and public collections, however some of his works are owned by people as far away as Germany and Japan.
He currently works and resides in Onion Lake First Nation.