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Four Grandmothers

She’s lucky in love!

Four Grandmothers by Dee Barsy

One of my favorite pieces in the Insurgence/Resurgence exhibit currently on view at the Winnipeg Art Gallery is Four Grandmothers by a young Winnipeg artist named Dee Barsy.  Dee is originally from the Skownan First Nation in Treaty 2 territory on Waterhen Lake.  She was adopted as a baby and so she has four grandmothers, two biological and two adoptive.  In her artwork Dee has depicted all four grandmothers.  Dee paints each one in a unique way to show their diversity but Four Grandmothers also illustrates the interconnected relationship between all her grandmothers and herself.

Detail from Four Grandmothers

In 2016 Dee met her maternal birth grandmother for the first time.  In an interview with the Winnipeg Free Press Dee says “When I met her, it was hugs and, ‘I love you.’ I wasn’t expecting that.”  Dee learned her grandmother had visited her in the hospital when she was a baby and had spoken to her in her native language. She marvels that her birth grandmother has remembered her for thirty years and has always loved her even though she wasn’t physically present with her granddaughter. 

Detail from Four Grandmothers by Dee Barsy

Dee’s paternal adopted grandmother passed away on Mothers Day this year. Dee reflects on the courage her grandmother showed in the last weeks of her life. Looking at Dee’s painting you realize she has learned things from each of her grandmothers. Creating her artwork has made Dee contemplate grief and loss and reunification and love. She says when she thinks about her adoptive and biological grandmothers she realizes “how I’m so lucky to have so much love in my life. ” 

With three of my grandmothers at my wedding

I always think of myself as having four grandmothers too because when I got married I inherited two more who became very special to me.  Looking at Dee’s painting makes me think about each of my four grandmothers and what was unique about them and how they have influenced my life.  

On a tour of Insurgence/Resurgence with eight year olds I invited them to use felt shapes to create portraits of people they loved in Dee’s style.  They did a beautiful job and it was heartwarming to hear them each describe their artwork and tell me about family members with whom they share the same kind of love Dee shares with her grandmothers. 

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