Artist breaks new ground with Ripples of Loss

Monday, November 6th, 2017 3:07pm


Image Caption

Artist Terry McCue with his painting Three Dancers. Photos by Paula E. Kirman

Opening reception of "Ripples of Loss".

By Paula E. Kirman Contributor

The paintings of “Ripples of Loss,” the new exhibit by Terry McCue (Ojibwa) at the Art Gallery of St. Albert, command attention.

Large, with intense, contrasting colors, the works honour missing and murdered Indigenous women. All the pieces feature skeletons in red ceremonial attire, set in various locations with accompanying skeletons of spirit animals.

The paintings often have elements that are critical of a society and its systems that have oppressed Indigenous population and ignore the crisis leading to these women vanishing by violence. The results are haunting and command attention.

Born on Curve Lake Reserve, Ont, McCue's work over the last two decades has received a lot of attention. Much of his work represents the interconnectedness of all living creatures, especially featuring animals. While also containing elements of nature.

McCue admits that “Ripples of Loss” is a departure for him.  He became aware of the Red Dress Project about a year-and-a-half ago while attending a related exhibit in Edmonton, and began the painting the work that has become “Ripples of Loss” over the course of a year.

Jenny Willson-McGrath, the director/curator of the Art Gallery of St. Albert, had been talking to McCue about doing a show, and booked it as soon as she saw the paintings.

“The paintings are informed by my history. I lost a sister to drinking, and a death is a death is a death, and I grew up in a family where there was alcoholism, so the kind of situations are familiar/ The stories are familiar,” said McCue.

However, even though the paintings differ from his past work, there is a connection concerning the natural world.

“Most of my 'normal' work is about painting the natural world,” he explained. “My people had a council, long before the white people came, and one of the things that came out of that council was that it was important to see the natural world and the creatures in it as our relatives, because we had a peculiar way of thinking, and because of that we could destroy that natural world, overpopulate it, which is, of course, what is going on. So I thought my bit is to do the work around the natural world, so that is what I have always done, because if you kill something you can't make it come back to life.

To exemplify his point, McCue points to one of his paintings on the wall in the gallery, featuring a skeletal woman and dog, along with a living coyote.

“She's got her dog with her but the only thing that can see her is that coyote. The natural world can see you.”

The opening reception of “Ripples of Loss” was on Nov. 4. As patrons walked through the gallery space, lots of conversations were started, a goal that McCue has successfully achieved.

“That's all I ever wanted. This would be my way, the least I could do, to keep it moving forward. If people don't keep moving it forward, don't keep calling it forward, it just gets forgotten when the next big story comes along.”

“Ripples of Loss” runs at the Art Gallery of St. Albert until Dec. 2. Admission is by donation.