Buffy Sainte-Marie art exhibition set to open in Ottawa this weekend

Thursday, August 25th, 2022 1:18pm


Image Caption

Buffy Sainte-Marie: Pathfinder, a retrospective exhibition… opens Aug. 27 at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa.


“She was very hands-on, and very generous in offering things that she felt from her personal life that she could lend to the exhibit.” — curator Natasha Desrochers Lowenthal
By Adam Laskaris
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A new art exhibition coming through the national capital is set to honour one of the country’s most iconic multidisciplinary artists.

Buffy Sainte-Marie: Pathfinder, a retrospective exhibitionwill be open to the public from Saturday, Aug. 27 to Sunday, Sept. 18 at Ottawa’s National Arts Centre.

Per the event’s description, the exhibition will feature Sainte-Marie’s collection of large-scale digital paintings, as well as never-before-seen personal sketches, artifacts and behind-the-scenes photos.

Entry is free, with no ticket required.

Though many might know Sainte-Marie best as a singer-songwriter, the exhibit’s curator hopes to shine light on her extensive visual and digital art career.

“Buffy is the quintessential multimedia artist. She's not compartmentalized,” said curator Natasha Desrochers Lowenthal in an interview with Windspeaker.com. “So everything she does is kind of interconnected with the other parts of her life and she's one of the most authentic artists that you could ever come across.”

Sainte-Marie’s career began in the 1960s. She was a foundational artist in the U.S. folk scene, with her Universal Soldier becoming an anthem of the anti-war movement. Sainte-Marie has since racked up a long list of accolades that includes just about every award an artist could earn, including an Academy Award and a Golden Globe. She has a Star on Canada’s Walk of Fame and is an officer of the Order of Canada. She’s been a disturber of the mainstream status quo and was at one time blacklisted from air-time on radio stations across North American in an effort by political manipulators to limit her influence.

“Even through the years of having been blacklisted, she's always just followed her heart and her drive has always reached through every corner of every capacity that she can find,” Desrochers Lowenthal said. “I just think it does such a disservice for people to not know this facet of her artistic expression.”

The exhibition was created, in part, to honour Sainte-Marie’s 80th birthday last year.


“We can consider her an Elder in every form,” Desrochers Lowenthal added. “We just need to pen her name down in history as far as an innovator in digital art because she really was one of the first people to use the computer to create art for aesthetics, as art, and not for marketing or for corporate purposes.”

Desrochers Lowenthal said the whole exhibition was straightforward to execute for the small curatorial team.

“It took surprisingly little time because Buffy is just such a dynamic personality and it's really, really easy to work with her,” Desrochers Lowenthal said. “She's an educator, so there's never any wrong questions or, you know, there's never any stupid questions and never any wrong approaches. She likes to guide everything.”

The exhibition has previously been showcased in Calgary, Winnipeg and Penticton, with each edition altering slightly to fit the galleries where it is showcased.

“[Sainte-Marie] has a very clear vision for things and yet she's also very open to suggestions and alterations because each venue is unique,” Desrochers Lowenthal said. “So she was very hands-on, and very generous in offering things that she felt from her personal life that she could lend to the exhibit, and they had to make sense in tandem with the art that was being displayed.”

Desrochers Lowenthal said Sainte-Marie has an authenticity and dedication that’s made her stand out throughout her career.

“It certainly helps for her to have some of the multiple revenue streams that songwriting and retaining your catalogue affords you,” Desrochers Lowenthal said. “But she's always taken her earnings and put it back in her art. And I think that that's something that we're not seeing in this generation. We're not seeing artists reinvest in themselves in that same way, reinvesting in their arts.

In the early days, Sainte-Marie purchased the computer that created her digital artwork before it was even on the market, said Desrochers Lowenthal. “And not just the computer, but she explored all the software and she explored the peripherals like scanners and printers,” she said.

Desrochers Lowenthal feels the great sense of duty that comes from curating the work of an icon such as Buffy Sainte-Marie.

“The whole aspect of curating has to be you have to be willing to be the backseat, because it's not about you. It's about the artists in the best possible way. And there's an incredible weight of responsibility with an artist like Buffy Sainte Marie. Just her integrity alone commands a level of responsibility as a curator that I have never experienced before.”

Local Journalism Initiative Reporters are supported by a financial contribution made by the Government of Canada.