By Terry Lusty, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – The Healing Language of Alex Janvier by world-renowned Denesuline artist, Alex Janvier, from Cold Lake First Nations, Treaty 6 Territory is on exhibit at Gallery@501 in Sherwood Park until November 20, 2022.
Curated in partnership with the Janvier Gallery, this impactful multi-media exhibition features paintings, sketchbook drawings, video and audio works that reflect Janvier’s experiences within Canada’s residential school system.
This special exhibition primarily features paintings from the Janvier family’s private collection, and this will be the first time that many of the artworks are on display to the public. Gallery visitors will learn about Alex’s residential school journey from the traumatic loss of language, culture and family, to finding a voice through his art, and a way forward on the path towards healing and reconciliation.
In collaboration with Indigital Media and Gallery@501, and with funding from Canadian Heritage, Alex and the Janvier family have created powerful video and audio works to complement the exhibit. Through sharing Alex’s impactful narratives, more light will be shed onto the history of residential schools, the lasting impacts for those who experienced them and their families, and the need for calls to action, connection and understanding.
Alberta Native News sat down with the Janvier Gallery for an interview about the exhibit.
What does the title of the exhibit mean?
The Healing Language of Alex Janvier
Alex’s Original Works of Art have touched people’s hearts and evoked such emotion for decades. Alex has created a universal language that has addressed many of the horrific events of Canadian and Indigenous history.
Especially after the little bodies were found at Kamloops Indian Residential School, many Canadians were shocked and became empathetic to Indigenous issues. Alex started to work on a series of orange background paintings as it triggered his abusive experience. We felt it was necessary to share this language, and his paintings, as a healing that all Canadians can feel.
Why do you think it is an important time to share Alex’s story?
We think it is a special time to share because more Canadians are listening with the intent to understand Indigenous issues better. Many survivors do not talk about their experiences at residential schools. So, generations later we are still not always clear about the abuses or how they affect our everyday life.
Alex has always been a storyteller and has recorded history within his art. The works of art in this exhibition span over several decades, to show his experience over the years. It’s a much-needed voice at this time.
How did you arrive at the concept of presenting Alex’s journey through a multi-media exhibit?
Alex is a prolific artist with a vast collection. A true artist, Alex continues to create in many different mediums. So, it was easy to find pieces for this exhibit. Throughout planning this exhibition, we brainstormed various ways to share the art to include a variety of senses. Using a variety of your senses can draw you in and capture your attention in an authentic way.
We appreciate all the hard work of Kris and the staff at Gallery@501; it’s been a beautiful collaboration! We are grateful to Damian Abrahams of Indigital Media for his production of the brilliant educational video.
What message are you hoping people will come away after viewing the exhibit?
We hope that people will continue the conversation and continue to put themselves into those awkward spaces where healing can occur. We are all responsible to ensure these genocidal acts never happen again. We want people to encourage others to experience the show, as we have created a safe space to engage with this truth.
Gallery@501 is located at #120, 501 Festival Avenue in Sherwood Park, Alberta. Click here for hours of operation.