Métis artist Jewel Shaw wants to start a discussion about identity and reconciliation with the past with her show Memory Bones, at the Red Deer museum. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Red Deer Métis artist explores a troubled history through her Memory Bones exhibit

Art prints by Jewel Shaw are on display until Aug. 20

Cemeteries, snares and other symbols of intergenerational trauma can be seen in Memory Bones, a printmaking exhibit at the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery.

Métis artist Jewel Shaw said she grew up in northern Alberta with the knowledge that bad things had happened to some of her family members, but nobody was willing to openly talk about these experiences.

As a child, Shaw witnessed addictions in her community. She would sometimes hear disturbing fragments of family history. But whenever she tried to piece these things together, the full story was always elusive.

“There was a lot of unresolved trauma and grief,” concluded the Red Deer based-artist from High Prairie.

Although Shaw’s salvation was the love she received from her grandmother and mother (who’d spent a brief period at an Indian residential school in her own childhood), “I saw a lot of hard things — suicide, abuse, alcoholism… Only through schooling and education — and my art — was I able to sort it all out.”

Shaw studied art at Red Deer College, and further honed her skills at the University of Alberta, where she earned a Masters degree. Art “just called me,” she explained, and the creative process has allowed her to explore issues around memory and identity.

As the married mom of a three-year-old boy, Shaw continues to work through a difficult family legacy in her etchings and prints.

Like the snippets of conversation she overheard as a child, her sparse artworks contain much negative space, punctuated with scattered symbols and quotations. Animal images of ravens, horses, wolverines and rodents are interspersed between Christian crosses, corrals and traps.

Shaw said she was inspired, in part, by found objects, including a rusted flaying saw used by trappers, an old beautifully illustrated book of natural history, and the cover of a Bible.

The artist who studied briefly in Australia and New Mexico, and has exhibited in Edmonton and Japan, hopes that her Memory Bones exhibit raises the kind of questions and discussions that don’t seem possible within her family.

The exhibit continues to Aug. 20.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Mountain snow pack deeper than usual but flooding will depend on rainfall

Big floods in 2013 and 2005 both followed major rainfalls in mountains

81 homeless camps removed from Red Deer parks so far this year

Parks workers are catching up after a six-week COVID-19-related lull

Salons are busy: Red Deerians rushing to get their hair done

As Alberta sheds COVID-19 restrictions, many Red Deerians are looking for a… Continue reading

VIDEO: Procession to honour Snowbirds Capt. Jennifer Casey comes to Halifax

Snowbirds service member died in a crash in Kamloops one week ago

Alberta government website has latest COVID-19 statistics

Red Deer Advocate readers can stay up to date on the COVID-19… Continue reading

NHL unveils return-to-play format in the event season can resume

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says the league and the NHL Players’ Association… Continue reading

Drug trafficking charges laid in central Alberta investigation

Investigation included Ponoka, Brazeau, Leduc counties

Political parties don’t need COVID cash

The least essential service throughout the pandemic has been politics — which… Continue reading

Whitecaps ‘keeper Maxime Crepeau dreaming about being back on the soccer pitch

It’s been 80 days since the Vancouver Whitecaps last saw action, so… Continue reading

David Marsden: Jason Kenney is all hat, no cattle

There are few character failings more unappealing than those of people who… Continue reading

Montreal Impact allowed to train individually at Centre Nutrilait

MONTREAL — The Montreal Impact are giving their first-team players access to… Continue reading

Most Read