Work of the Week: Faye HeavyShield

Date: May 4, 2022

May 5 is Red Dress Day, a national day for honouring missing and murdered Indigenous peoples. It is a day to raise awareness and education about missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, two-spirit people and men.

On the day, people across North America hang red dresses in private and public spaces to remember missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual plus people in solidarity with family members and loved ones.

In honour of Red Dress Day, we are featuring two artworks by Faye HeavyShield from the AFA Art Collection: red dress and blood.

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Additional information about blood

The sculpture featured above is one component of a larger installation entitled blood. The installation reflected on Faye HeavyShield's ancestry and identity. 

The diverse elements of the installation included:

  • drawings composed directly on the gallery walls
  • a solid 3-dimensional rectangular form painted red and covered in miniature cloth red bundles
  • the installation of string and red cloth bundles (featured)

These elements depicted the inseparability of the past and the present, and the communal and the personal. The installation explored memory, especially the ritualized and repetitive acts to preserve it.

In the words of the artist:

“My parents blessed me with language, kindness, and strength, my brothers and sisters taught me loyalty, my children give me hope. This is blood.”

About the Artist: Faye HeavyShield

Faye HeavyShield is a member of the Blood Nation.

She graduated from the Alberta College of Art (now the Alberta University of the Arts) in 1985 and continued her studies at the University of Calgary.

Gaining prominence and recognition over the past 20 years, her work has been the subject of many solo shows, including major exhibitions of First Nations contemporary art. Her work is featured in collections of the National Gallery of Canada, the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, as well as the AFA Art Collection. She was one of three artists selected to receive the 2021 Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Distinguished Artist Award in 2021.

In April 2022, it was announced that HeavyShield was the winnter of the $75,000 Gershon Iskowitz Prize at the Art Gallery of Ontario. This annual award recognizes an artist who has made outstanding contributions to Canadian visual arts. 

HeavyShield's work is a fusion of highly evolved personal and powerful imagery influenced by her Christian and Blood upbringing. Her minimalist installations are metaphors of the human body and a reflection of her personal experiences.

Image descriptions

red dress - A bright red dress is hung on a black mannequin stand facing front toward the viewer. The dress has mid-length sleeves splaid to each side, a smal V in the neckline, and a simple seam between bodice and skirt. Across the chest of the bodice are two lines of large white metal and paper tags that hang from a line of glass beads. 

blood - A long column of approximately 30 red strings hang from a ceiling in a gallery space, with hundreds of red cloth bundles tied to each string. Where the column of string meets the cement floor, the strings are laid out to spread away from the centre to create a kind of web around the column.

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