The Many Paths That Have Led Us Here: Stories of Resilience in the Arts

Tue December 1, 2020 - 9:30 PM
The Many Paths That Have Led Us Here: Stories of Resilience in the Arts

Arts Commons Presents 
The +15 Galleries

The Many Paths That Have Led Us Here: Stories of Resilience in the Arts
Artists: Hali Heavy Shield, Oli Siska, Miriam Fabijan, Gizelle Erdei, Penny Gunderson, Mohar Gupta, Sable Sweetgrass

Location: The +15 Galleries

"An artist's path is not always clear, nor predetermined. No two creative paths are alike, nor should they be compared. An artist's creative journey is unique and as important as the artwork produced - with the journey almost always informing the creative process. Core to this initiative is that every artist has a story and from the foundation of sharing these stories we can foster a community of support, inclusiveness, engagement, and shared opportunities."

- Miriam Fabijan

Hali Heavy Shield Nato’yi’kina’soyi (Holy Light that Shines Bright)

Artist Statement
Inspired by her love of comic books and pop culture’s pin-up genre, Heavy Shield experiments with Blackfoot feminism in relation to women’s roles as providers, protectors, and leaders. Researching Indigenous women’s representations in settler photography, Heavy Shield reflects on her understanding of place, strength, agency, and voice in an effort to deconstruct notions of the ‘settler gaze’, using humour and dialogue as foundational elements of relationship and community building. 

Artist Bio
Nato’yi’kina’soyi (Holy Light that Shines Bright), Hali Heavy Shield is a multidisciplinary artist and member of the Blood Tribe of Southern Alberta. Heavy Shield has shown her work in group exhibitions Of Surroundings, Southern Alberta Art Gallery (2019), Making Treaty 7 Visual Art Exhibit, Arts Commons, Calgary (2019), and upcoming 2020 Art Gallery of Alberta Biennial of Contemporary Art, Edmonton, AB. In addition to participating in Banff Residencies Writer’s Intensive and Indigenous Arts Mixed Media programs, Heavy Shield is also a PhD student at the University of Lethbridge researching Blackfoot art and storytelling.

Oli Siska, Piitaaki/Eagle Woman

Artist Statement
After my son was born I had very little time to paint. I took up photography because it was much easier to create in limited time. A passion was born and a new medium was brought into my life.

Many years ago, I started to see faces in rocks. They appeared out of nowhere yet I knew they had always been there. I began to photograph them wherever I went. Their energy was unlike any other as they began to come to life. They started to tell me stories about human nature and the land. I began to write them down. The stories were short and simple with complicated punchlines.

Each rock face had its own identity and wisdom. I simply documented their words.

This has become a project called Rock Faces that I am turning into a book of images and stories. Knowing everything is alive and inspired by the land, I continue this journey of understanding old geologic formations that surrounds us. 

Artist Bio
In my journey as an artist I have never stopped practising, however, I stopped being in the public eye. This has led to many questions. What makes an artist? Is it formal training or simply passion? Is it continuing to be in the public sphere or the art
of creation alone? How does one return to the field when the emerging part of life has concluded but the professional has not yet been acknowledged?

This exhibit begins with “Factory”, a piece that is at the beginning of my formal training. I grew up in an occupied country and started my journey as an artist in grade one after weeks of testing for aptitude. After school, my childhood years were spent in the National Art Academy training.

After immigrating to Canada, I was told that art was not an occupation in the West. I was guided toward forgetting my formative years and the only thing I ever knew to be me.

Although I never stopped creating, it was a difficult struggle between passion and legitimacy in the context of the new society. It made me wonder why I was guided to learn something only to be forbidden to use it. My identity was tied into creation as it was the only thing I had ever known by that point. Quietly, I continued to practice and explore who I was as an artist but the public would not be a part of my secret until many years later.

Miriam Fabijan

Artist Bio/Statement
Miriam Fabijan has been a practicing artist since the 1980s, finding early success exhibiting her work across Canada and into Europe; in group exhibitions: London Life - The Young Contemporaries (touring exhibition, 1987-88) and Nickel Arts Museum’s Elemental Instincts: a matter of course (1988); and solo exhibitions: The Shade of a Shadow (SAAG, Lethbridge & YYZ, Toronto, 1991-92) and Translations; my hat has three holes (Galerija Equrna, Slovenia; Beneska Galerija, Italy; Oboro, Montreal & Toronto Photographers Workshop, 1992-94).

Her earlier work took the form of multimedia installations and focused on issues of identity, language and heritage. Her work can be found in various public and private collections in Canada, the US, and Europe, including the Canada Council Art Bank. Miriam received her MFA from the NSCAD (1989).

In the late 1990s Miriam Fabijan took a hiatus from publicly exhibiting her work to devote her time to raising a family, and in search of greater freedom in her creative process. During this time she focused on drawing and developing a more personal expressive language. Deeply (2020) is the third part of a three-part presentation of her recent artwork for The Many Paths initiative.


Penny Gunderson

Artist Statement
My creative process involves deeply considering what matters to me and the communities I am a part of. The disabled community, being an older woman, the #metoo movement, and the resiliency and companionship of women in groups have all been catalysts in my work.

I work primarily in encaustic, which is molten beeswax combined with tree resin and pigment, fused to a natural base. My work is evolving from encaustic portraits on wood panels to a combination of encaustic fabric, fibre and stitching.

I once did tailoring, I’m not able to sew at that level anymore so I have embraced the slow stitching movement where slow intentional hand stitching is valued. My recent works are black and white encaustic photographs on translucent silk. I am attempting to capture the community of women as they stitch together. One goal is to trigger comforting memories of sewing and handwork completed by family or friends.

Artist Bio
Penny Gunderson is an emerging visual artist who lives in Calgary. Her work features encaustic, painting with; hot beeswax, tree resin and pigment, with fibre and stitching. Penny is a 2019-20 RBC Emerging Visual Artist. She is a 2020 Artist in Residence at the Women’s Centre of Calgary.

Penny lives with several chronic invisible illnesses including mental health and autoimmune health issues. Her art practice was put on the back burner while she raised her family as a single parent and later became disabled. Her interest in the communities she relates to became points of inspiration for her re-invigorated art practice. She says, “It’s an exciting time to be learning new things, and coming into my own in my 60s!”

Penny continues exploring the community of women through encaustic photography, stitchery and mending through The Mending Circle Project. She is also creating a commemorative Covid-19 Crazy Quilt Wall Hanging.


Sable Sweetgrass - Kainai Nation

Artist Statement/Bio
“I’ve always loved the painted images of Mary and Jesus with Gold Halos. My son is holy and my role as an adopted transgender mother is both traditional and sacred.”

Gizelle Erdei (Curated by ICAI)

Artist Statement
I have always had an immense admiration and interest in the mysteries of the ancient worlds and their unknown stories. My work often embodies the cumulative time and reimagining long-forgotten stories. My DNA memory takes me back centuries, to the caves of ancient land and with nomadic tribes that settled in Europe. Some of my ancestors crossed the continent seeking the nexts stone structure to create. I am grateful for my ancestors in passing down the creative genes, my ability to create.

I have a very strong connection to stone, but now I’m working with clay, hydro stone, and cement as my sculpting mediums. I like the plasticity of the clay, the similarity of the hydro stone to marble, and the concrete’s physical and visual properties to stone. Some of my concrete pieces are directly built onto wire support and others are first sculpted into clay to create a urethane mould with then cement cast into the mould.

The subject of my paintings are resembling to my sculptures, often reflects the decaying past using heavy paint to achieve the effect of crumbling time.

Artist Bio
Gizelle obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the Nova Scotia College of Applied Art and Design. Apprenticed with Lea Vivot, sculptor, in Kleinburg, ON and with Pewabic Pottery in Detroit, MI.

Her varied career has included medieval fresco restoration
in Europe, ceramics instructor, art coordinator and a gallery manager in NS. She was the creative designer for
Trident Newspaper, a Canadian Armed Forces publication. Earlier works include a wide range of graphic designs for several corporations and academic institutions in Halifax, NS. New World Publishing, commissioned her to create book illustrations and cover designs.

Today, some of her architectural ceramic projects and paintings are found at the Atlantic Place in Moncton, NB, the offices of Halifax Business Partnerships and in many private homes in Halifax NS.

Gizelle is a creative and versatile artist working in a wide range of mediums, this includes a variety of hand-build ceramic art, book illustrations and more recently she began to work with concrete and textured paint mediums. Her love for ancient and weathered subjects are some of the trademarks of her work.


Mohar Gupta (Curated by ICAI)

Artist Statement
My artistic style consists of using many different textures and mediums. As I am a textile designer, I love to incorporate those things in my artwork. Bold, eye catching scenes and unique styles of cubism are my favorite way to paint. Creating art allows me to connect with myself better and gives me an overall sense of fulfillment. I try to find the beauty in nature and everyday objects and recreate that in an artistic way. My artwork is a way for me to express my feelings and to share the way I see the world. By exhibiting my collection, I want others to see the world through my eyes.

Artist Bio
My name is Mohar and I have been living and working in Calgary for the past 5 years. I’m originally from Kolkata, India, but I moved to Calgary in 2014.

I am a professional textile designer and an emerging artist. I got my postgraduate from National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT, India) for Textile Design and Development. I started my painting career in Australia. Since childhood, my favorite hobby is art. I love painting and art; they both bring happiness to my life.

My style of art is to create different textures with all sorts of materials and acrylic paints. Painting makes me feel happy and relaxed and looking at the finished piece of art makes me feel satisfied.

I began regularly showing my work in Calgary in 2017 when
I participated in
Art From the Unknown exhibition, organized by Rachel Notley. In addition to that, I have also participated in Canadian Artists for Poor exhibit in 2018 and the Alchemist Extravaganza at the Motion Gallery 2018. In 2019 I had my solo exhibit at the Louis Riley library, Calgary.

Toyin Oladele is an experienced performing artist, curator and arts administrator with a demonstrated history of excellence in programming, community engagement and event planning and production. Her professional experience is firmly rooted in her ability to combine the arts with community spaces in order to enhance the synergies that exist in terms of connection, inclusion and vibrancy.

Toyin founded the Immigrant Council for Arts Innovation (ICAI) in 2019 and is currently the organization’s Executive Director. As a curator, working with Gizelle Erdei and Mohar Gupta has been a journey that indeed speaks about resilience and this is the best time to share their works. She curated their works specifically for this exhibition because of their unique way of expressing their resiliency. It took a lot of work and determination to build confidence and show the world what they have been creating, we hope you love and enjoy it as much as we do.

ICAI is bridging the gap for immigrant artists by providing them with the necessary resources, a platform and a safe environment for their practice. ICAI is creating a community hub in Calgary where all immigrant artists can feel safe to express themselves freely, so that they can create, connect and display their works in an environment that fosters support, connection and inclusion.