Birches in Sunlight Landscape

 

Melinda Shank's "Fragile"

June 1 – June 25

Sponsors: Wilson Timber Mart and Richard & Eleanor Yip-Chuck

 

 

Melinda, in her own words

I grew up living temporarily in many places, never sure of where I was from or where I would end up. Returning to North Bay, the place where I was born but not the place where I was raised, has introduced me to the idea of a home. It’s given me a place of belonging and I have taken the opportunity to explore my heritage. I am of mixed origins, some have always been known to me and some surprises were discovered in a long, genealogical search.

I have been painting for many years, trying out different techniques and adopting some styles from artists I admire. I always questioned who I was, what I would say, where I belonged in this world and in the art world. The question of identity was a big one. It was this seeking identity that lead me to finally accept the randomness of our existence.

When I finally understood that none of us really belong to any one place, or to any one person, it changed the way I see the whole of the world. We are creatures of this planet, like the beasts in the forest, or the critters on our lawn, or the largest mammals diving beneath the ocean waters. We rely on this planet for life: water, air, shelter, food and medicine. How we interact with each other depends on how readily we have the means of survival within our reach. And then I thought about how we achieve these requirements of life.

When I was a child, we grew or hunted for our food. We built our shelter from the trees that grew and we warmed our winter mittens by a wood fire. 

Now, I hunt at the grocery store. I hunt for bargains.I feel compelled to own a home much larger than I need, made of steel, wood and plastic. We have forced air heat fueled by gas and cold air-conditioned rooms when the summer finally arrives. When did I become so distanced from the earth? When did I become a parasite, discarding waste that will forever drift through our precious waterways with no thought to its beginning or its end? When did I become oblivious to the effects of pollution, filling my body with fast-food and pills and coffee to keep up with my busy, busy life?

 

I started painting to slow down. To spend time admiring and appreciating the astounding beauty of nature. To sit in silence and let my spirit out. I began to dig into my origins and embrace my Native ancestry. I imagine the voices of my paternal grandmothers and the lives they lived in order for me to exist. I also learned to love the Scottish freckles I inherited from my mother and in turn have sprinkled on the cheeks of my children. I paint to honour my ancestors and their survival on this planet before we hunted in grocery stores. I paint to honour my children, so they don’t forget to play outside. I paint to honour our wildlife, because they are helpless to the disaster that we humans have created, helpless to the plastic apocalypse that threatens our water and our land. I paint to honour our mother earth, for it is she who watches us enter this world throughout time. It is she who feeds us and cures our sicknesses. She reveals to us the miracle of a thunderstorm or the simple genius of a spider’s web. We grow, we learn, we suffer and we celebrate, we age, we rage and we fall. And when we’re done, we return our bodies to the earth and rest in her eternal embrace. I paint for us all.

 

 YouTube link Melinda Shank

 

Melinda Shank MilesMelinda's Bio 

Melinda is a member of the North Bay/Mattawa Algonquin First Nation, and currently lives with her family in North Bay, Ontario. She has a Bachelor of Arts from McMaster University in Hamilton, and has completed additional studies in art at the Dundas Valley School of Art and at Redeemer University in Ancaster. She was born in North Bay, but grew up in Western Canada, often moving from one place to the next in Alberta and B.C.

Melinda paints with oils, watercolours and acrylics, sometimes incorporating mixed media to establish texture and dimension within the painting. Her paintings show the beauty of the untamed wilderness, snapshots of a great blue heron in flight, a freshly born bison calf, the sunlight behind the last leaves of the Fall, illuminated behind a cluster of trees.

She is inspired by the story of her ancestors: Algonquin relations born into the fur trade and an Anishinaabe grandmother, orphaned, born “illegitimate” in a rural Catholic church and referred to as simply “Sauvage.” A great-grandmother from the Mi’kmaq territories on Canada’s Eastern shores, her stories buried deep in a family who could not acknowledge their origins. A mother’s Scottish clan, with roots buried deep within the icy northern Orkney islands who, after centuries of war and hardship, sailed to Canada.

These inspiring stories are those of survival, families torn apart and reunited, of travelling great distances and remembering an identity attached to a far-away place. Melinda’s childhood was a nomadic adventure until she settled in North Bay, where the footsteps of her ancestors have brought her home.

This collection of oil and acrylic paintings on canvas and watercolours show us what Melinda sees when she looks at her home, and when she looks at herself. She addresses identity, and connects us to the earth, the water and the air.