The Woodland Style of Jordan Quequish
Story by Leah Morningstar, Photos by Chad Kirvan
Jordan Quequish’s artistic journey began years ago when he was a small child living in North Caribou Lake First Nation (Treaty 9, north of Pickle Lake). He recalls how talented and hardworking his late father Jimmy was: a man who could do almost anything with his hands, whether it was fixing small appliances and vehicles, carpentry projects, fishing, or harvesting wild game to feed his friends and family. He was always doing something, including painting. Quequish watched, absorbed the lessons, and followed his father’s guiding hands.
When Quequish was older—middle school-aged—he began learning from a local artist named Saul Williams. Williams was an artist in the community who would teach monthly art lessons to interested students. This was different from watching a parent; this felt like an official experience with an artist who was able to give instruction about technique and style. Quequish credits Williams for introducing him to the traditional Woodland style and says he still remembers the lessons and his teacher’s words. “If you want to learn how to paint and draw in the Woodland style, you have to think about the ancestors, how they lived, and how they connected to the land and to nature,” Quequish says of Williams’s advice.
Up until five years ago, Quequish was still living in North Caribou Lake. He had spent his entire life honing his skills as an artist in his small community. When he met his partner, fellow Indigenous artist Reena Larabee, they decided to make their home in Thunder Bay. Life is often busy for the artistic duo, as they’re always working on something together—whether it’s making art or raising children. Quequish also travels around Northwestern Ontario and Manitoba teaching art to students, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous.
Last year, Quequish befriended the owners of The Creative Company and was happy to join their team. He strongly believes that Anishinaabe art is about kindness, sharing, and teaching. So what he’s been doing at The Creative is compiling take-home painting kits. Each kit contains all the materials needed to recreate one of Quequish’s designs, as well as information about what the design means. “A picture is worth a thousand words and when someone buys one of my painting kits, they’ll be working with their hands and learning at the same time,” he says. Individual designs can represent ancient legends, simple stories, a moral lesson, or learning about a life skill.
Quequish has learned, through his own life experiences, that giving yourself over to creating art can be tremendously healing. He recounts his own past traumas and says learning about art, making the art, and teaching others has been therapeutic and key to his own healing. Part of his job as an artist is to guide others through art on the journey to their own healing. “Art changed my life, art healed me,” he says. “I want to connect with communities, especially young people, and pass that healing on.”
You can contact The Creative Company at 286-2280 or firstname.lastname@example.org
to inquire about the available art kits from Jordan Quequish. You can also follow Quequish on Instagram @jordanquequish or Facebook at JordanQuequish’s ArtWork.