The Teaching is in The Making at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery
By Bonnie Schiedel
Photography, First Nations regalia, and powerful storytelling blend beautifully in The Teaching is In The Making, a new exhibit at Thunder Bay Art Gallery. The show combines the work of two Thunder Bay artists, Celeste Pedri-Spade and Leanna Marshall. Both artists explore Anishinaabe art, culture, and knowledge through family memories.
Pedri-Spade came to art through regalia, learning beading and sewing from her mother, Marcia Pedri, and other members of her family. “It is always a way to relate to my family, my teachings, my culture, and my ancestors,” says Pedri-Spade, who is a band member of Lac des Milles Lacs First Nation. Later, she became interested in photography. “At one point I had a dream about making regalia out of photos,” she says. “I talked to my mom and another elder about it and they said, ‘What would you learn if you did it?’” She began working with personal family photos going back several generations to craft items like a leather tobacco pouch embellished with delicate beadwork that recreates a black and white photo of her grandmother.
“It was almost like getting into a conversation with the person in the photo,” she says. “You notice the little details, you make links to your memories of that person or what you’ve been told about that person.” Seven regalia items are part of the exhibit, in addition to a series of photographs she took of local Anishinabeg families that are inspired by their personal family pictures. “It’s a way of saying to our ancestors, ‘we are still here; we are honouring your presence in our lives’ and acknowledging the photos, the marks, they left for us.”
Leanna Marshall, whose home community is Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug, fused her love of sewing and dance to create a series of eight jingle dresses, each representing a story about a woman in her family. “At the time, my mom, Charlotte Childforever Marten, was sharing her experiences at a residential school as part of the Truth and Reconciliation process,” she says. “I was so tired of carrying anger around, so I decided to make jingle dresses as a process to heal from this anger.” One dress—black velvet with jingles circling around a central beaded medallion—is called “I Said a Prayer to the Moon,” and represents her mother praying for her own father to come get her after she had been severely beaten by a teacher.
The dresses are accompanied by short recordings of Leanna Marshall’s mother recounting a memory, as well as moccasins crafted by Jean Marshall and screenprints by Christian Chapman, who form the Anemki Art Collective with Leanna. “As soon as the show is over, the dresses will be gifted away,” she says. “They have spirit in them; they aren’t just objects. I want to see them dance at a powwow!”
The Teaching is in the Making runs June 24 to September 4. The opening ceremony is July 7 at 7:30 pm and the public is welcome to attend. For more information visit theag.ca.
Featured image caption: Celeste Pedri-Spade, 2015, beads, brain-tanned leather, cotton with linocut print, metal jingle cones. Photo by Rebecca Bose