Women’s liberation, experience, feminism, bodies, and daily ‘performance’ are of immense interest to me, particularly that of Indigenous Women – whether they are bodies that birth or not. The numerous roles women play out on society’s stage are difficult to choreograph, perform and embody, and are often subject to violence. Protecting and advocating for women as well as pushing back against the expectations and preconceptions society places upon us is a fundamental part of my life, continuously informing my art practice.
Sewing plays a large role in my artwork as a Métis woman. Sewing was and is a necessary method of creating used by many Indigenous peoples when their usual forms of creative and ceremonial expression were banned and are appropriated by colonial systems and its supporters. Métis expressions of art and creating were inextricably linked to everything they experienced on a daily basis, supporting ceremonies that celebrated cultural and social milestones. .
In European/Western art history, sewing has been a practical, feminine art form that women had permission to explore without threatening the patriarchy. The traditional fine arts of painting and drawing were off limits, deemed only for true artists: men. Sewing has often been overlooked as a medium and considered to be a low art form, or craft. Women learned to use sewing as opportunities to unite, strategize, satisfy their intellectual and artistic pursuits, and to share stories of oppression and victory.
* 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
Womxn & More-than-womxn, 2018
Dirt from Mi’kmaq territory on watercolor paper
Potawatomi Benojigemwenen sung by Wapshkankwet Sarah Perrote
Artwork by Melanie Lefebvre
Bow to The Matriarch, 2016
Indigenous plains 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 plains peoples. In the 19th century, the bison population went from upwards of 60 million to just a few thousand – the fastest rate of extinction of any species in human history.
“The bison, the staple food for millennia, provided a diet so dependable and so nutritious that the First Nations of the Plains have been described by anthropologists as the tallest people in the world in the nineteenth century.” James Daschuk, Clearing the Plains.
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?
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.
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; the sacred is in plain sight.
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 Nakoda ancestor, Therise Assiniboine (as documented by colonialists in the 18th century) was born on the plains of Turtle Island in the 1700s. She married Joseph Rocque, a Métis fur trader whose mother was Oceti Sakowin and father was French. I have been reclaiming my family history – from my Metis father to before Kanada existed – to commune with my ancestors and reconnect with my kin, lost through the diaspora. These works are an exploration in identity. Through these landscapes of The Plains, 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.