The St. Albert Public Library exhibits two indigenous artists


Linda M. Wright and Esta Bee present paintings and beadwork

June is National Indigenous History Month, an opportunity to learn about the unique culture, traditions and experiences of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.

This year, the St. Albert's Public Library is featuring two Inuit artists from the IAM Collective, the Indigenous Art Market Collective. The collective is based in Fort Edmonton Park and promotes visual arts and handmade products.

Linda M. Wright, of Gwich'in descent, is a contemporary realist painter who moved to Edmonton from Inuvik in the Northwest Territories. In the broadest sense, her vibrant paintings explore the environment, the land, nature and all its living things.

She paints on canvas, drums and wood panels and often uses beads, glitter, leather, fabrics and fur in her works.

While some fine artists use straight lines to depict their vision, Wright prefers to accentuate her paintings with undulating, curved lines that represent energy and movement. And her powerful subjects focus on northern wildlife, mountains, waterways, people and Inuit symbolism.

“I will be bringing landscape and mountain paintings to the library. They will be very narrative pieces inspired by stories, legends, teachings and many other things,” said Wright. She is the daughter of Inuit artist Dennis Wright and a self-taught artist.

One of her personal projects is to raise awareness of the impacts of climate change on wildlife in the Arctic regions. Higher temperatures and record-breaking ice melting are introducing dangerous pollutants such as mercury and lead into the food chain.

In one of her paintings entitled Pollution of the Arctic, The ghost of a bear on an ice floe seems to disappear into the landscape. Beneath the bear is a sea of ​​garbage.

“I painted it at the end of summer 2023 and decorated it with things like beads,” she said.

A graphic designer and arts and culture manager by trade, Wright has only been dedicated to art full-time for seven years, but in that short time, her deep appreciation for the North and her visual storytelling has caught the interest of many.

On the other hand, Esta Bee is a master of traditional beading, feather embroidery, tufting and leather tanning, resulting in pieces that are not only beautiful but also culturally significant.

A Yellowknife native, Bee's art reflects her Teetl'it Gwich'in roots and her desire to preserve and pass on traditional knowledge and skills. And by studying the beadwork styles of the Athabaskan Dene people to the north, she strives to honor her ancestors and keep their traditions alive.

While the Spruce Grove-based artist will display some of her beadwork at the library, much of her exhibition will feature a mix of paintings from her Dark Sky Series, Birch Collection, and Prairies Collection. Bee's art is primarily inspired by nature, and her preferred medium is acrylic, which she uses to depict abstract realism.

“In the north, the nights are long and cold and you can hear the northern lights crackling in the sky. I want to show more of the dark skies of the north,” said Bee.

Talking about the differences between the north and the south, she said, “In the north, you have tundra. It's rocky and dense. The prairies, on the other hand, give a feeling of emptiness. I don't miss the minus 50 degree weather, but it's a different lifestyle. It's quieter. There's no rush. There's always something going on here.”

Bee believes that Indigenous art is based on the sharing of memories, culture and tradition.

“I'm slowly moving towards that. I just started adding red to my work for the many murdered and missing indigenous women. I'm slowly moving towards a direction that I feel comfortable with and it's my own interpretation.”

The free exhibition will be held from May 29 to June 26 at the St. Albert Downtown Library, 5 St. Anne Street.