Art Gallery of St. Albert exhibition honours Indigenous knowledge and stories of Alberta’s land

Art Quilt by Heather Shillinglaw, De Towe - Teli Towe / Fish Lake / Marie Lake, 2023. On exhibit at the Art Gallery of St. Albert, Oct. 5 - Nov. 25, 2023. Image supplied.

(St. Albert, Alberta) – The Art Gallery of St. Albert (part of the Arts and Heritage Foundation) is launching its newest exhibition in the beautiful main gallery space that honours Indigenous knowledge and stories of Alberta’s land, past and present.

ᒫᒥᑐᓀᔨᐦᒋᑲᐣ ᑯᑖᐄᐧᐤ mâmitonêyihcikan kotâwîw my mind digs in the soil like a turtle presents 12 stunning art quilts stitched on elk hide. Heather Shillinglaw, a mixed-media artist of Appetogasan, Cree/Dene, Salteaux Chipewyan and Scottish/French heritage, captures aerial views of Lac Ste. Anne, Cooking Lake and the Sturgeon River, alongside many more.

Shillinglaw showcases ancient trails in red ribbon in her quilts, tracing them through woods made of satin, lace, leather and yarn. These lands are where her ancestors lived and travelled, hunted, gathered medicines, told stories and taught future generations. The quilts blend the memories of these lands from the past with the changes seen today.

Tufting, beading and embroidery reveal the richness of the natural world. While looking closely at the land itself, the works present beautiful spheres of knowledge that celebrate Indigenous worldviews. Hours spent in conversation with Elders, Knowledge Keepers and family members blend with cultural knowledge, as well as Shillinglaw’s research into the relationship between plants and people. Topstitched across the surface of each piece are poems written by the artist and Métis Elder Marilyn Dumont, beautifully sharing hard truths and painful histories.

“Walking these landscapes with my mother, Shirley Norris-Shillinglaw, from the LeGoff Indian Reserve, she recounted teachings and knowledge passed down to her,” Heather says.

“Knowledge of plants and animals, the rhythms and cycles of the land are remembered while we are out in the bush. It is a healing place. But there are painful gaps – the consequences of colonization and Indian Residential Schools.”

In her works, Shillinglaw reclaims her ancestral knowledge and connects to her family’s history, which is Canada’s history. By working with Elders, honouring, and sharing this profound Indigenous knowledge, viewers can relearn how to see and truly understand Alberta’s land.

 The exhibition runs from October 5 to November 25, 2023. 

  • Artist talk and reception: October 12 from 6-8 pm
  • In-person tour: October 17 at noon
  • Virtual tour: October 24 at noon on Facebook Live

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