Women’s liberation, experience, feminism, bodies, and daily ‘performance’ are of immense interest to me. The numerous roles women play out on society’s stage are difficult to choreograph, perform and embody. Pushing back against the expectations and preconceptions regarding women is a fundamental part of my life and a topic that continuously informs my art. Similarly, I care deeply about marginalized groups, particularly indigenous peoples as my heritage is Métis/Irish, and this has manifested in writing, fibers works, painting, drawing, and video.
Sewing plays a large role in my artwork. Historically, sewing has been a practical art form that women have had permission to explore, whereas the traditionally fine arts of painting and drawing were off limits. It is often overlooked as a medium and considered to be a low art form, or craft. Women learned to use sewing in various ways to satisfy their intellectual and artistic pursuits. Sewing was also an important, necessary method of creating used by indigenous peoples when their usual forms of expression like dance, singing, and ceremony were banned by colonial forces. Indigenous expressions of art and creating were inextricably linked to everything they experienced on a daily basis, supporting ceremonies that celebrated cultural and social milestones. Art making in indigenous cultures has often been a story of triumph against tyranny.
* 2016, MainLine Gallery, Montreal, Qc, group show, Fragments
* 2016 Galerie Mile End, Montreal, Qc, group show, Creations des Femmes
* 2014 Warren G. Flowers Gallery, Montréal, Qc, group show, Beyond Contours
* 2007 Gallery V, Montréal, Qc, group show, Women Artists
* 2008 Corona Theatre, Montréal, Qc, group show
* 2006 Galerie V, Montréal, QC, solo show, Perspectives
* 2006 Campbell Gallery, Westmount, Qc
Melanie achieved her BA in English Literature from Concordia University and is now working towards a Bachelor of Fine Arts. A freelance writer for almost 20 years, Melanie has experience in journalism, publishing and communications. Her short story Work with What You Got received an honorable mention in the Quebec Writing Competition and was subsequently published by Vehicule Press. Her foray into the art world was self-taught, beginning with oil painting and digital art. This led to studying fine art at the Westmount Visual Arts Centre and then Concordia University. Her interest in Indigeneity, feminism, the female experience, traditional roles, and marginalized peoples is evident in her works.
Bow to The Matriarch, 2016
Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island depended on bison to survive. Although not their only resource, First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples relied on bison for food, clothing, tools… as the entire body of the animal was used, and honored, for all kinds of functions and ceremonial practice. Colonialists essentially wiped out the bison in order to exert control over indigenous peoples. In the 19th century, the bison population went from upwards of 60 million to just a few thousand – the fastest decline of any species on earth. Thanks to Quebec bison farmer Jacques Seguin, I was able to spend time with a herd of bison, experience their matriarchal society and worship.
This short animation is about ancestry and its empowering quality. Researched and uncovered, our lineage can inspire courage, confidence, and fearlessness as we are no longer one, but many. Certainly when we talk about women’s experience, we are able to see in our society that too often the voices of women are devalued, diminished, or silenced altogether. Gather strength from those that are yours.
My Moccasins, 2016
Embroidery thread, recycled vinyl, neoprene
Inspired by artist Trisha Brown’s dance performance Watermotor, I began to think about the female body, our many “performances” in society, how each is like an intricate, choreographed dance. I thought of my own dances and performances I have put on throughout my life: daughter, sister, girl, teenager, young woman, woman, virgin, slut, firecracker, bimbo, wife, mother, student, writer, mademoiselle, Madame, lady, MILF, disappearing woman… every woman has shoes she must walk in. What do your shoes look like?
Saint Anne Beatrice, 2016
Saint Coco, 2016
Saint Frederick Paul, 2016
11 x 17in
Pencil, watercolor, gouache, recycled mixed media on paper
The mundane or ‘earthly’ is awash in vibrant color and the figures adorned with halos, recalling the traditions of Byzantium and the Renaissance when only the divine and otherworldly were painted. This juxtaposition reminds one of what is truly divine, inspiring and nourishing; religion or spirituality need not be outside of one’s experience but perhaps lay in plain sight.
The Matriarchal Hood, 2015
In this hood, in this story, I envisioned myself a Matriarchal entity able to access the past, present and future, a power found in the feminine collective consciousness. For women in today’s society, we are often called away to perform duties other than nurturing the self. This hood represents an experience that is far from the societal performances that women must act out or be ostracized: ritual, a sacred experience, of the tides and waxing/waning of the moon, listening, hands in earth, being.
Palimpsest: The Girls, 2015
These are images of my two daughters integrating some of their marker drawings with watercolor, polymer medium, found things and canvas, on canvas. Simply put, a palimpsest is an artwork with a history that can be seen, with under-layers being visible under the top-most image. I combined the images with sound recorded by me, mixed by Frederick Tobin, thus creating another layer, a fourth dimension, in the surrounding space.
Watercolor and ink on paper.
My ancestor, Therise Assiniboine of the Assiniboine First Nation, was born on the Canadian plains in the 1700s. She married Joseph Roque, a Métis fur trader whose mother was of the Sioux Nation and father was French. I have been researching my family history for some time, attempting to commune with my ancestors. These works are an exploration in identity. Through these landscapes of Saskatchewan and Alberta, I have attempted to further find and feel these links to my past. Landscapes, like identities, are forever changing yet carry with them the memories of the past.