Mary Ann Penashue – Uapen Innut
Christina Parker Gallery is pleased to announce its first major painting exhibition with celebrated Innu painter Mary Ann Penashue, UAPEN INNUT. Translated, the title means Innu people of the sunrise.
The exhibition opens Friday, April 20th, with an artist reception from 5:30 – 8pm. Maryann Penashue will be present. The exhibition continues until May 12th.
Mary Ann Penashue is an Innu artist born in 1964 in Birch Island near Goose Bay, NL. She resides with her husband, children and grandchildren in Sheshatshiu, Labrador. Raised by her grandparents in a small village called Mud Lake, Mary Ann learned from them Innu culture and traditions. Her earliest memories are of being tucked into her bed amongst the spruce boughs in the traditional Innu tent and watching her grandparents drum and dance by the light of the fire. The ritual, she recalls, reflects the thanks Innu gave to the creator for the bounty provided by the land and animals.
In speaking about her work Mary Ann states: “My art tells the story of when the Europeans made first contact with the Innu people, when the Innu didn’t know anything about the white people. The stories in my artwork continue to follow what happened during and after this contact, leading to my own experience as a child. The people in my artwork are based on old photos of my Innu ancestors, as well as current photos I took of my family. I was raised and spent most of my life on the land with my grandparents. My grandfather took me caribou hunting and told me stories of his experiences. At one point in my life I was ashamed of my aboriginal identity, but that changed later in my life. I was blessed with a talent; as a child I started drawing, then later I started painting portraits. My paintings are a way to gather and tell stories about myself, my community, and my ancestors”.
The art work of Mary Ann Penashue has been celebrated for its unique and exciting combination of modern technique and colour to portray traditional Innu cultural images. Her inspiration to capture the “Tshenut” (Elders) in her community began with early paintings of her grandparents, Michel and Mani Pasteen, with whom she was raised. Although the imagery focuses on people involved with traditional work and events, the colours and background imagery are usually not predetermined and develop as the work progresses.
“I started painting in 1995 when I was in my 30s. I started painting faces on canvas with oil because it was challenging. At this point, my husband and I had our fourth child, but I continued to paint despite the responsibilities of raising a family. Now, I work primarily with acrylic on canvas, and express my experiences using a colourful palette. As the years went by, and my children got bigger, I got better at painting. I took paid employment from time to time, but I was never happy with it. I love to paint. This is who I am. Bringing my First Nations culture to life is a very important aspect in my work.”
In 2007 Mary Ann was named “Emerging Artist of the Year” by the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council. In 2011, Mary Ann was accepted into the Ottawa School of Art Fine Art Diploma program graduating in 2016.
Mary Ann has been commissioned by several Aboriginal organizations throughout Labrador and Quebec to paint images of Tshenut, and has immortalized the faces of the Elders in approximately 500 art works. Her work has been exhibited and collected throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec and Ontario and she has been show-cased at the Northern Lights Show in Ottawa.