Earlier this past year OCAD University teamed up with the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA, and, with the support of the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa created ‘We Are All Related’, a calendar featuring artwork by students and recent graduates of the two schools involved in the project. Recently we took some time to catch up with two of the artists who were involved in the making of We Are All Related, Violet Chum and Patrick DeCoste.
SITE-SPECIFIC: In your view, why is the ‘We Are All Related’ Calendar project important?
VIOLET CHUM: The ‘We Are All Related’ Calendar project is important because it unites artists collectively, especially for Indigenous artists. Our art work communicates with one another to bring an understanding of our own personal and political views within the world. Each artist expresses their own view of their culture creatively through various mediums of art and because of this, it establishes a form of connection. It was great meeting some of the artists in person from Santa Fe, New Mexico.
PATRICK DECOSTE: The ‘We Are All Related’ Calendar project is important to me because it connects my Nova Scotia Métis heritage to a larger North American community of indigenous artists. Bonnie Devine (Anishinaabe, Serpent River First Nations) taught me in her Indigenous Cultural Studies class in the OCAD U MFA Program of the importance of land. Naming your people and where you are from ‒ where you live ‒ is not simply a cultural act, but also a political act. Colonizers (especially the Government of Canada) have been taking land from First Nations People since Jacques Cartier staked a holy cross in the soil of the ‘New World’ in 1534 to the dismay of Iroquois chief Donnacona. This practice continues today, especially when resources like oil and lumber are concerned. ‘We Are All Related’ is a reminder that indigenous people still live all across this land. The calendar can foster dialogue so that we indigenous and non-indigenous people alike, can better understand each other, regardless of where we come from or who we are related to.
[image description: painting looking upwards at the blue sky through the top of an also blue teepee and its supporting poles]
S: Tell us about your piece and some of the themes or issues you explore though it.
C: My art work in the ‘We Are All Related’ Calendar project, Home Sweet Home, and Sliding Party explore the themes nature and lifestyle. By exploring this, it was my intention to portray the feeling of warmth through the surrounding of nature and family. Home Sweet Home invites the viewer to take a look of nature through a warmth setting of the light beaming on the teepee poles and the light blue sky. The many shades and tones of blue in the Sliding Party offer a more airy, cool atmosphere, and a sense of warmth through the family who are enjoying the winter wonderland.
D: ‘Wolervine Map’ 2013, acrylic and thread on wolverine skin, 36 x 48 inches. The piece is created on a wolverine skin with acrylic paint and red thread. It connects to the fur trade and is based on the maps of explorer Champlain during his visits to Canada in the early 1600s. The piece is a self-portrait, tracing my movements, similar to Champlain’s, from where I was born in Antigonish Nova Scotia to where I currently live in Toronto and Georgian Bay. Early colonial movements in Canada, while destructive then and now, also populated the country with mixed blood people, and in my Métis case, French and Mi’kmaq.
[image description: painting of a map of southeastern Canada on a wolverine’s hide; with red thread tracing a pattern of travel]