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St. Albert Public Library exhibits two Indigenous artists

Linda M. Wright and Esta Bee present paintings and beadwork

June is National Indigenous History Month, an opportunity to learn about the unique culture, traditions and experiences of First Nations, Inuit and Métis. 

This year St. Albert’s Public Library introduces two Indigenous artists. 

Linda M. Wright, of Gwich’in heritage, is a contemporary realistic painter who moved to Edmonton from Inuvik, Northwest Territories. In a broad sense, her vibrant images explore the environment, the land, nature and all its living creatures. 

She paints on canvas, drums and wood panels and often fuses beads, glitter, leather hide, fabrics and fur into her pieces. 

While some visual artists use straight lines to depict their vision, Wright prefers accentuating her paintings with wavy, curvilinear lines that depict energy and movement. And her robust subject material brings into focus northern wildlife, mountains, waterways, the people and Indigenous symbolism. 

“I’ll be bringing landscapes and mountain pieces to the library. They’ll be highly narrative pieces inspired by stories, legends, teachings and several other things,” said Wright, a self-taught artist. 

One of her personal projects is bringing awareness on how climate change is affecting wildlife in the Arctic regions. With warmer temperatures and ice melting at record levels, dangerous contaminants such as mercury and lead are introduced into the food chain. 

In one of her paintings titled Arctic Pollution, the spirit of a bear on an ice floe appears to be disappearing into the landscape. Below the bear is a sea of garbage. 

“I painted it at the end of summer in 2023 and embellished it with things like beads,” she said. 

A graphic designer and art and cultural manager by trade, Wright only immersed herself full-time in art seven years ago. However, in that short span of time, the strength of her deep appreciation of the North and her visual storytelling has captured the interest of many. 

On the other hand, Esta Bee excels at traditional beadwork, quillwork, tufting, and hide tanning, which results in pieces that are not only beautiful but also culturally significant. 

Originally from Yellowknife, Bee’s art reflects her Teetl’it Gwich’in roots and her desire to preserve and share traditional knowledge and skills. And by studying the styles of Athabaskan Dene beadwork across the North, she is committed to honouring her ancestors and keeping their traditions alive. 

While the Spruce Grove based artist will feature some of her beadwork at the library, much of her exhibition will showcase a mix of paintings from her Dark Sky Series, Birch Collection and Prairies Collection. Bee’s art is primarily nature inspired and her preferred medium is acrylic used to depict abstract realism. 

“In the north, the nights are long and cold and you can hear the Northern Lights crackling in the sky. I want to show more of the dark skies of the north,” said Bee. 

In chatting about the differences between the north and south she said, “The north has tundra. It’s rocky and dense. The prairies instead have a feeling of emptiness. I don’t miss the minus 50-degree weather, but it’s a different lifestyle. It’s quieter. There’s no rush. Here it’s constant.” 

Bee sees Indigenous art as based on sharing memories, culture and tradition. 

“I’m slowly moving into that. I’ve just started adding red to my work for the many murdered and missing Indigenous women. I’m slowly moving into a place where I feel comfortable and it’s my own take.” 

The free exhibition is on from May 29 to June 26 at St. Albert’s downtown library, 5 St. Anne Street. 

Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

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