MacKenzie Art Gallery inaugurates a retrospective on Faye HeavyShield

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The exhibition, organized in partnership with HeavyShield itself, will be the first solo exhibition of her work in Saskatchewan.

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Installation crews are hard at work this week at the MacKenzie Art Gallery, piecing together a new retrospective installation on contemporary Indigenous artist Faye HeavyShield due to open on Friday.

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For associate curator Felicia Gaywho piloted the creation of the installation, it is the exciting culmination of several years of work that led to the conceptualization of this show.

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“There is so much integrity in what she does, it says a lot. She really influenced many generations of Indigenous artists like men and women,” Gay said in an interview Thursday.

“It’s about the kind of work she was doing, which was so set in a specific Indigenous worldview and she was so strong about it from the start.

Gay worked alongside HeavyShield to bring it to fruition and says she felt guided by their personal friendship and shared heritage similarities.

“I wanted it to be more collaborative and for us to do it together,” she said. “I wanted Faye to feel empowered, to know that her voice is really curation-centric.”

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The result is a very personal final exhibition for the women and, Gay hopes, for those who visit the gallery to experience it.

  1. A replica of the famous statue of Apollo Belvedere is part of the Conceptions of White exhibition, which opened at the Mackenzie Art Gallery on Saturday August 6, 2022 in Regina.

    MacKenzie Art Gallery opens exhibit exploring ‘myths and meanings’ of whiteness

  2. A new exhibition called Radical Stitch at the MacKenzie Art Gallery features a large collection of Aboriginal beads by contemporary artists like Catherine Blackburn, whose piece is pictured here.

    Inauguration of historic Aboriginal bead collection at MacKenzie Art

Entitled The Art of Faye HeavyShield, the collection includes sculptures and installations spanning multiple media types, as well as a documentary about HeavyShield’s creative process made for this exhibition.

There will also be an accompanying print publication written in English, French and Blackfoot, written as an exploration of HeavyShield’s place in contemporary art circles.

Gay said there was particular excitement about it, as a valuable addition to the world of art history for the future.

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“When you look for written works about Faye, they are so rare (and so) that it will be great for our art history for students, spreading how she influenced and framed so many people.”

HeavyShield has been a deeply influential figure in contemporary art since he began his career thirty years ago. As a Northern Plains artist, HeavyShield is often described as a “cultural matriarch,” known for her minimalist style rooted in her experience as a Blackfoot woman from Kainai Territory in southern Alberta.

“I was trying to curate in a way that followed my Swampy Cree worldview, and because Faye’s work is so ingrained in her Blackfoot culture, she was just a perfect (choice),” Gay said.

What makes his work special, Gay said, is how each piece contains a part of HeavyShield, its experiences and its territory.

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“There are deep-rooted connections to our land, our environments,” Gay said. “His language, his Blackfoot territory, the waters that are in his territory like the Belly River, the old man – all of those things are incorporated, (and) kinship and his family are a big part of his practice.”

The complexity of this connection is what sets HeavyShield apart from its contemporaries, Gay added, as an artist who perpetuates the fluidity of storytelling in Indigenous practices.

Time in Indigenous cultures is not linear and stories exist in the past, present and future, Gay explained. According to her, Indigenous art is a form of visual storytelling, creating an interaction between the audience and the artist.

“I want people to understand how wonderfully intricate, intricate and healing our stories are, and I would say Faye’s work, for me, is probably the most successful in conveying that,” she said.

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“She wants you to come and see her work, because it’s present (and) poetic and minimalist – and it doesn’t show in the photos, but when you’re in the room with her work, it’s like there was this presence that you feel.”

The Art of Faye HeavyShield will be the first solo exhibition of HeavyShield’s work presented in Saskatchewan. Gay said the reaction from many after the show was announced was, “It’s about time.”

“People have been waiting for this, and I feel like Faye really deserves this recognition,” Gay said.

The retrospective opens October 28 with a receptionand will remain on display until February 19, after which it will travel to Winnipeg.

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