Local Indigenous artist adds new painting to UBC Okanagan's collection

Syilx art goes to UBCO

A local Indigenous artist has added a new painting to the UBC Okanagan's Public Art Collection.

Sheldon Pierre Louis, a Syilx artist, will have his painting displayed in Tower One on the third floor of the Engineering Management and Education building on campus. The piece, titled cax?alqs — red dress, showcases an Indigenous woman wearing a red dress and a face mask.

The Okanagan School of Education worked with Dr. Stacey Koosel, UBC art gallery curator with the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies, to commission the new artwork.

“We are excited to add this new work to our collection, as Sheldon Pierre Louis is an important Syilx artist with tremendous talent, bravery and influence,” says Koosel. “This is the first work of his that we have the honour of adding to our public art collection.”

Louis says he wants to take this opportunity to use his platform as a method to create change, as he feels art can be an educational tool, a conversational opening as well as a political weapon. “As a Syilx artist I have always sought to use my art as a catalyst for discussion, to create spaces where uncomfortable issues can be brought forward into the societal dialogue to be given a voice,” he adds.

His latest masterpiece has many levels, he explains. The canvas highlights the current times in which we are living, as the mask represents the pandemic, and in some cases has been seen as a symbol of the “oppression” society is experiencing. But Louis says those who see the picture will see an Indigenous woman standing strong. The elk teeth on the red dress are a symbol of her deeply rooted and celebrated importance and worth in Indigenous society, and the red dress itself is a symbol of the missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit Movement.

“By placing this image out into the public area of the campus it gives voice, and hopefully a sense, that the issues and concerns and spirits of our women will not be silenced and will not go unnoticed,” he adds.

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