Brave, determined, nothing stops her, fierce, fights for what’s right, she persisted
A group of highschool students were inspired to write that poem after looking at the black and white image above created by Shelley Niro. Shelley is one of the winners of the 2017 Governor General’s award for art achievement. Her work is currently on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery along with that of the other Governor General’s winners. As students view Shelley’s woodcut series called Resting With Warriors they are invited to dress up in moccasins and sashes similar to the ones worn by the women in Shelley’s artwork. Then students write words or phrases to describe each woman. Later they get into groups to arrange those words into a poem like the one that starts this blog post.
Shelley’s art is very much influenced by the bead, birchbark and carving work she saw being created around her while growing up on the Mohawk Nation near Brantford Ontario. She is dedicated to producing art that contributes to aboriginal identity in Canada. In a film interview she says she particularly likes seeing the way young girls react to her work. She wants to provide them with an alternate image of aboriginal women, one not usually seen in the mass media. Shelley is an artist adept at film making, painting, beadwork, photography and sculpture.
If you visit the Winnipeg Art Gallery right now you can also see another installation by Shelley Niro called Final Moments Thinking of You. A tour group of high school students I had in the gallery last week told me the title could mean two things. One is that the world is in its final moments because of climate change and environmental damage so the photos are a way to say good-bye to the elements of earth, water, fire and air. Another interpretation was that these are images a person is seeing just before they die. They loved nature so these are the things they would see in their final moments.
I am looking forward to seeing what other creative ideas Shelley’s work will inspire with the students who are privileged to see her work at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.