Inspiration from the Winged:
Homage to My Dad's Beadwork (In Process)
Ochre upholstery thread, linen canvas, black material, white thread, toilet paper hand made beads, acrylic, gel medium, needles, pattern on paper, Dad's beaded thunderbird medallion necklace
24 x 36 in.
I have been immersed in a search for my place in my culture and my culture in me throughout my years at OCAD University. I have been experimenting with beading again lately. I began looking at it from a historical lens as I further learn about the wampum and how the introduction of glass beads from European colonists has changed the way in which my ancestors embellished objects. While this is a theme which I have explored in various ways in my artwork, I have actively chosen to not use the actual beads or wampum shells in my art pieces as I personally believe that to comment on this medium and to explore the personal concepts that I wish to work through, I must represent these objects which hold so much history through other means. I see it as a respect that I am bestowing on the medium as I feel that it has not been a skill that was taught and given to me to use in conceptual art. In this piece, which I entitle "Inspiration from the Winged", I am using a medallion necklace that my father, Cecil Wabegijig, who passed away when I was 14, beaded as inspiration. I have always related to the thunderbird and held the image as sacred, a source of strength that is connected to my spirit in a very special way. I have represented my father as an eagle, Father Sky, in my artwork for many years. The medallion is a direct connection, for me, to his spirit. My mother gave this medallion to my husband for our traditional marriage ceremony. I care for this medallion for my husband until he is released from prison and can care for it himself. With these things in mind, I wanted to create my own beads, my own pattern using the medallion as source inspiration and my own loom. The bead loom is a technique that was taught to me by my mother.. I wanted to create a larger scale version of a typical bead and loom to create the impact that this medium has on me. I am in awe of beaders that have a passion and talent to create such beauty with such patience, care and honour. I have chosen to employ the four colours given to me as my spirit guides, white, brown, green and turquoise as a way to continue to strive to better understand myself and come to know my path. The act of making the 420 beads, which are made from pieces of toilet paper, water and gesso, was cathartic. Rolling them in my hands, white from the gesso, was a healing, meditative process that allowed me to think on the meaning that was told me of the colour in relation to myself, which is love, warmth and wisdom. I also used white thread, on the black material stretched behind the liner that I used as the loom, to create a water ripple design. It was told to me that I am a lot like that water ripple, "It never stops until it hits something. It's called Miiziwa." The brown is about two things; helper-wise it is about perseverance and nourishment. Green is about humility; it means you walk very lightly on this earth. Turquoise is about a direct connection to spirit. I used a linen liner as the loom to incorporate one of my other chosen professions, framing. My father also made frames. I used to watch him work in our small garage on his workbench creating custom pieces. I stained the linen with cedar tea as another way to instill healing and good energy through our sacred medicine. The whole artwork has been about the process and representing that patience, care and honour that is inherent in beading for me. I chose to leave the last four rows; to be finished one day. When it is time to give my husband my father's medallion, I will finish my inspired rendition of it. For now, it is a home for one of my father's only beaded creations.