Chataya Holy Singer
Stories for the Collection consists of works selected from the Dr. Margaret (Marmie) Hess acquisition along with artworks made in response to them by students in the Indigenous Art Studio course, under the instruction of Assistance Professor Jackson 2bears. More than a thousand artworks were gifted to the University of Lethbridge from from the estate of Marmie Hess estate in 2017, and a significant amount of them were Indigenous works. I was excited to learn that I would be given the opportunity to explore the Hess collection; nonetheless, it was a daunting task knowing that I had to select only a small number of works from a large and diverse collection.
Using the digital database, I explored the Hess gift and selected forty artworks, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to present to the studio art class. I was not familiar with most of the artists; however, when making my decision, I was mindful of selecting a diverse body of artwork that would allow for a variety of responses from the students. Because I was responsible for setting up the initial dialogue between the students and the art collection, it was important to select a range of different artworks given that what may inspire one student may not interest another. I selected work by Indigenous artists of various backgrounds, non-Indigenous artists whose work commented on land, works that addressed themes of identity, as well as Indigenous artwork that critiqued colonial histories. The students chose an artwork that engaged with their art practice and interests and then created a new work in response. While some students were inspired by the visual elements of the artworks, others were moved by the historical context, the artist’s approach, or the underlying theme of the work.
Stories for the Collection provides a contemporary perspective that seeks to provoke a meaningful exchange between artwork and audience. The student-made artworks that have emerged from this investigation facilitate extraordinary reflections on where we once were, where we are, and where we are going in the future.
It has been an enriching experience watching each student create an artwork that reflects on their thoughts about art making, storytelling, and Indigenous identity.
– Jaylyn Potts, Museum Studies Intern