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Glenna Matoush

Glenna MatoushCombining a sensitivity to light, colour and movement, the works of Glenna Matoush are intensely physical. A professional artist for more than thirty years, Glenna Matoush now resides in Montreal. But she was born on the Rama reserve near Orillia, Ontario, and lived for many years in Mistissini, the Cree village where she raised her children. She shares the Crees' love of people, and the land and all it contains.

Acutely aware of the circumstances impinging upon First Nations peoples, Glenna's work confronts many aspects of aboriginal history. Most recently, issues related to identity, the destruction wrought by hydroelectric development, and the despair caused by AIDS have been major preoccupations.

So, too, are incidents in which the deep and profound aboriginal presence on the land is subverted by the outlandish interpretations of some non-natives. Five paintings by Glenna, displayed on this website, are from the series Shaman Transporting Souls to the Heavens.   In them Glenna attempts to correct the historical record and restore the spiritual significance of pictographs found near Collingwood, Ontario. Made by native people, the pictographs represent shamans bringing souls to the heavens. An archaeologist, however, had attributed them to the Vikings. The title of the show, Reclaimed Images, in which symbols found in the pictographs are featured in the paintings, is self-explanatory.

Glenna began her career as a printmaker, turning to painting and collage in the 1990s. At this point her works – multi-media assemblages, really – become a riot of texture, colour and line. Some are luminous.

While subject matter and images – some figurative, others abstract – reflect her aboriginal roots, so too does Glenna's choice of materials. Her tool chest is vast: Organic elements such as animal skulls, bones, bark and sweet-grass, pine needles, porcupine quills and wood, as well as moose and caribou hair are combined with beads, ribbons, metal, printed images, text and paint to form a richly textured surface.

Glenna's vivid colour palette is rendered more strident by the use of contrasting tones. An occasional flash of light accentuates the intensity. Add to this the manner in which the colour is applied to the surface – canvas, paper, jeans – in lines so fluid and, sometimes, so dynamic and energetic, it leaves the viewer dizzy!

A familiar face within the Cree world, Glenna has become well-known through her exhibitions across Canada, the United States, Central America and Europe. Amongst the most recent is an exhibition at Ritchies in Montreal; another at Winnipeg gallery, Urban Shaman Contemporary Aboriginal Art; yet another at Carleton University, Ottawa; and before that, one at the Woodland Cultural Centre and another at the Canadian Guild of Crafts in Montreal.

Examples of her work are in private, corporate and museum collections, and have appeared in several publications. In addition, Glenna has created artist's books and several murals: In memory of the women sex-trade workers who were murdered in Vancouver, she participated in the “Living Monument Project” in that city. For years another of her murals, painted on the side of a building, soared over busy St. Laurent Street in downtown Montreal. And then miles away in Iiyiyuuschii, far from the hustle and bustle, murals by Glenna grace the interior of the school in Oujé-Bougoumou and the hotel in Mistissini.

Discover other works by Glenna Matoush at: