Saskatoon Indigenous artist Kevin Pee-ace attended an opening with invited friends, guests and media for his new installation at Wanuskewin Heritage Park. The exhibit, entitled colour & culture continues in the Olivia Gallery through May 1.
The work was produced during a month-long Olivia and Greg Yuel Artist in Residency program. It’s an impressive body of work given that the month was also filled with workshops, studio visits and other demands of Kevin’s time. Those visits are important parts of his process, as he explained during a conversation at the private reception on Friday, February 9.
“The art should be accessible,” maintains Pee-ace. “I’m doing this in a studio all the time where there is nobody but me and my family. You get to a point in your career where you just want to share with people, open the doors, open yourself up.”
One of the works in Pee-ace's exhibition is a collaborative work that invited both employee and visitor participation. It took some fledgling artists time to warm up to the idea, but eventually, one by one, people came in, asked about the project and how they could contribute, and picked up a brush to add their own colours and perspectives based on the lore behind the work.
“There was a group of four women from South American who showed up on the third last day (of the residency), and they filled in most of the sky,” Kevin added. “So, most of the colours you see in the sky, they filled in. They were laughing and telling stories in Spanish, painting away.”
Channeling student learning through the artistic process was important to Pee-ace in his work with Humboldt area school children through cooperation with the school divisions and Humboldt’s Cultural Services department. Pee-ace said the children wanted to focus on Treaties and their importance in the work. That investigation led to other learning and the development of images that are represented in the Humboldt mural.
“The kids had a lot of good ideas, and sometimes the good ideas are not your own. Sometimes it’s the kids you teach. Sometimes it’s just the circumstance of being there that it happens.”
For Pee-ace, much of his work is inspired by family, particularly as a way of connecting.
Because of the residential school and the way we were treated, how we couldn’t express our feelings, it hit really hard,” Kevin recalled communicating with his own son. “Then having a family, being like that, it was really tough. On one side, I’m the product of my history, and on the other side is the future of my life. I told my son if I couldn’t tell him enough how much I loved him, through the paintings, he could see it.”
Emblazoned with bright colours, deeply rooted images of family and connections, and always punctuated with floral imagery like painted bead work, Pee-ace's creations are a celebration of coming together, teaching, and a striving for new horizons.
The images of colour & culture are on now at Wanuskewin Heritage Park. Kevin and Wanuskewin invite visitors to participate in an interactive workshop to create a new piece on Saturday, February 24.