Tag Archives: shelley niro

Elisapee, Shelley and Oviloo

During the eight years, I worked at the Winnipeg Art Gallery I had the privilege of getting to know the work of so many talented and inspiring Indigenous female artists. Since this is Indigenous history month I thought I would showcase three of them each with a major work they created. I photographed all the artwork in this post at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

Elisapee Ishulutaq has used oil sticks to record the history of the community of Pangnirtung in her colourful mural Yesterday and Today.

For five days in 2014, Elisapee slid along the floor in her apron, seal skin boots and knitted sweater, with her wire-frame glasses perched on her nose, creating a vibrant scene of life in her home community of Pangnirtung, Nunavut. You can see what life was like in Pangnirtung, generations ago, as well as today.

Elisapee is a renowned artist, who was awarded the Order of Canada. She is known for her expressive, autobiographical images of daily life in Canada’s Arctic. She died in 2018.

Shelley Niro made these huge woodcuts on woven paper in 2001 for a series she calls Resting With Warriors.

Shelley Niro’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. With the Resting With Warriors series, she wanted to give young girls an alternate image of Indigenous women, one not usually seen in the mass media.

In 2017 Shelley won the Governor General’s Award for excellence in visual art.

Oviloo in Hospital by Oviloo Tunille 2002

Over more than a decade Oviloo Tunnillie, an artist from Cape Dorset created a series of serpentinite sculptures to illustrate her experience of being sent to a sanatorium in Manitoba for two years when she contracted tuberculosis at age 5.

Oviloo in Bed by Oviloo Tunille

She was taken away on a ship and separated from her family. Her treatment at the hospital included periods of bed rest during which she was tied to her bed and she was sexually abused by a doctor.

Nurse with Crying Child by Oviloo Tunille- 2001

When Oviloo was finally returned home she felt like she hardly knew her family anymore. She had forgotten much of the Inuktitut language, was used to eating different foods and had learned new cultural ways.

Oviloo with her granddaughter photo by Jerry Riley

Although the experience of being taken to away to a TB hospital was not unique to Oviloo, she is the only Inuit artist to have referenced it directly in her art.

Oviloo is noted for defying convention and cataloguing the story of contemporary women in the North. She is one of only a few female Inuit carvers to gain international success. She died in 2014 of cancer.

Other Indigenous Female Artists.…….

Transferring the Real to the Unreal

And Mary You’ve Seen Hard Times

Four Grandmothers


Filed under Art

An Award Winner Inspires Teens

strength warrior woman series shelly niro

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.  shelley niro resting with warriorsAs 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.

resting with warriors shelley niroShelley’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. 

final moments thinking of you shelley niroIf 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. 

Other posts………

Getting to know Oviloo Tunille

Falling in Love with Elisapee Ishulutaq

Creation of the World by Daphne Odjig



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Filed under Art, Canada