I have always loved botany, especially flowers. From as far back as I can remember I have always been drawn to them. I used to sneak into my neighbours yard and pick her flowers, she had an amazing garden. I would concoct potions made from plants I picked on the way home from school, I would pretend I was some sort of witch or medieval pharmacist. When I was a teenager, my high school boyfriend and I set out to find the rarest of orchids on the west coast. We made a list and would carry around referance books with images to confirm. We would take trips to the islands off the coast of BC and hike through the woods looking for orchids, documenting them and checking them off. They remain to be some of the dearest memories I have.
During my university career I was interested in movements such as Minimalism and Conceptualism, I was drawn to the underlining meaning and the symbolic use of images. I have also been very drawn to simplicity and strong lines. As well as taking fine art courses I grew more and more interested in art history, specifically Indigenous art history. I decided to pursue another degree on top of my Fine Arts degree. During my art history academics I was encouraged by my professor to look into my past and research my family history. My family, on my mothers side, is Cree and Metis and I was interested in researching where my family came from. I discovered through this research that my great grandfather was a medicine man in Sturgeon Lake, Alberta reserve, this resonated deeply within me. When I was in my fourth year I really wanted to take what I had learned about my family and sew it into my practice. I was in an advanced drawing course and we were to spend the entire semester working on one project. I came up with the idea of making an installation using framed watercolour drawings. The drawings were of botanicals from across North America that were used in indigenous medicine. This piece was entitled The Place. On the outside facing the viewer were grid drawings to symbolize my previous years of minimalistic interest and on the inside were botanical watercolour drawings of indigenous medicinal plants.
During my last year I grew more and more interested in westernization and colonialization, I developed a great interest and respect for Aboriginal art history. Artist's like Recebba Belmore, Carl Beam, Kent Monkman, Nadia Myre, Brian Jungen, and so many more, were, and continue to be, incredibly inspiring to my practice and my thoughts. After my first semester in fourth year I got a scholarship to go to South Africa and participate in the Art in School Initiative. I was given a studio space and assigned to work on something for the next few months. I decided to take my interest in colonization and apply it to a South African context. I used South African botanicals to tell the story of colonization and westernization. I made Botany Colonized during my months in South Africa. There is a total of 42 pieces, all pieces have two layers. The first layer is a watercolour drawing of an invading plant, it is painted in a traditional botanical illustration style to symbolize the English and Dutch colonial regime of South Africa. The second layer is a lino print of a endangered indigenous plant, I used the lino cut print in white ink to symbolize some of the traditional motifs of South African art. The white layer is hard to see and thus engaging with the idea of extinction.
About a year after I made Botany Colonized I got a placement at the NSCAD Community Residency in Lunenburg, NS. The residency gave me a great platform and space to produce work. I decided I wanted to explore the same sort of idea as Botany Colonized but in a North American context. I believe that there is a connection between the indigenous plants nearing extinction and how traditional aboriginal ways of life have almost vanished within our modern day society. The westernization of North America has exterminated a traditional way of life for Native North Americans. The residential school regime, reserve relocation, the stealing of land, the banning of traditional ceremonies, and so many other horrors that these people have endured, are just some of the reasons these people struggle to be seen. This, to me, is similar to how these plants have been nearing extinction, these plants are all endangered because of the expansion of rural and urban areas, because of the growth in agriculture and the carelessness of our society. I used these botanical paintings to tell the story of not only the demies of a beautiful ecosystem but also the demies of a beautiful way of life.