Feature artist for May 2024: Jessica Desmoulin

By Terry Lusty, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

(ANNews) – The beautiful art on the cover of the May 2024 edition of Alberta Native News is a detail from a painting entitled In Rhythm With Nature by Jessica Desmoulin, an artist who is based in the Edmonton region. Recently, she had her own one-person show at Edmonton’s popular Bearclaw Gallery at 10403 – 124th St., just west of the downtown core.

The May 4 – 16 exhibit and sale, entitled Where the Journey Takes You, proved a superb example of what Jesse is capable of – as well as offering a glimpse into what her future might hold as one of Canada’s breakout Ojibway talents who is now taking her place in a demanding field where the competition can be quite fierce and certainly challenging.

Here we have a fine example of a true artist. She is totally self-taught, never attended art school or took any formal art courses, and just “lets it flow” from within, from what the Creator gifted her with internally and spiritually to share with the world around her.

Her art style could be likened to the traditional eastern Woodland Indigenous artists such as the late and great Norval Morrisseau, Roy Thomas and Carl Ray, among others. Her illustrations are not only compelling, but expressly complimentary of the flowing lines style associated with such luminaries as Alex Janvier, Morrisseau, Jackson Beardy and others. Desmoulin also incorporates connecting lines, division circles and x-ray imagery — a format now legendary among the greats and a style that exemplifies human relationships/connections with the land, animals and plants as well as the spirit world itself.

In the early stages of her life, Desmoulin didn’t visualize art in any serious manner, certainly not as a career. That, however, all changed about 20, 25 years ago when she unfortunately fell victim to an illness that limited her ability to pursue the demands of manual labour.

With that in mind, she reassessed her position in life and gave consideration to her love of art. She started to experiment with it and found both enjoyment and talent. Her mother liked what she saw and encouraged her to look at marketing her works. She continued to create pieces, more or less instinctively, and from the heart. In short, one could say that she stumbled into it as a career by accident and also as a form of therapy.

Jessica Desmoulin with her painting “Moon Glows and Sun Shines” on exhibit at Bearclaw Gallery in Edmonton. Photo by Terry Lusty.

As she poured herself into her new-found passion, she discovered an innate affinity for the Woodland style of some notable Indigenous artists of Canada. The imagery spoke to her and appeared to reflect her own thoughts and feelings about art styles.

Really, it was all so surreal, she said. It seemed as if the stage had been set for her to intuitively develop her own unique style from the artistic elements around her and which had lain dormant within her being/soul for years, but were now emerging instinctively. On that note, she simply began incorporating those elements in her art just as some of Canada’s past great Indigenous artists had done.

Then things began to go her way. She happened upon Jackie Bugera and Bearclaw Gallery in Edmonton. And, as that old adage goes, “the rest is history.”

Bugera provided her with “advice” and “insights” of the art world and marketing that put her on a proper path and helped her on her journey, she explained. That good turn, she continued, will always stay with her and is something for which she is tremendously grateful.

With Bearclaw at the helm, assisting her in exhibiting and promoting her art, Desmoulin’s visibilty escalated and the demands for her art and skills surged. Her own grandmither who lives in Thunder Bay purchased her first major piece of work after spotting it online. Thereafter, matters just snow-balled. The University of Alberta acquired pieces, her art was included among other artists in books and magazines. Travel Alberta, schools and communities jumped into the picture as did hospitals and youth programs like Spirit Runner.

And so, this begs the question put to Desmoulin, “What would you really like to see down the road, what dream would be your wish come true?”

Her response: “I’d love to see my name alongside Norval’s, to do shows in places like Toronto, New York, Vancouver …. worldwide!”

With her talent it is possible that her dream will come true.

The door is open right now for emerging artists and established artists to join the great Indigenous artists of our time. Might Jessica Desmoulin be one of those to complete the picture? Only time will tell. She’s definitely knocking on the door, ready and willing to step up to the plate if given the opportunity.

When it comes to Edmonton being her home base, she loves the area because it’s treated her well, it’s been “kind and welcoming,” she says. She also welcomes the opportunity to learn more about her culture and reconnect with it.

On a parting note, she is delighted and grateful to Jackie and the Bearclaw Gallery for helping her with her career.

Visit Bearclaw Gallery at 10403-124th St. in Edmonton to view Jessica’s art in addition to the art of many Indigenous artisans from across Canada and the far North.


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