Why Don't You Drop This Indian Stuff?
The Legacy of Indigenous Selfhood, 2013

Test Pattern in Four Layers  (2011), functioned as a prototype for the Test Pattern Series blending the use of digital technologies incorporated with layered plexi-glass and graphic transfers of beads and quills to break down the well-known Indian Head Test Pattern image. In so doing, I shifted the symbolism by removing the Indian head and depicting a circle within a square. I then placed a photograph of a beaded rosette and digitally designed quills to convey visual metaphors embedded in these customary materials.

The Indian Head Test Pattern image was originally used as an industrial device for calibrating television viewing signals for both the broadcaster and the viewer from the 50's through the 70's. This graphic image of the indian warrior featured on the test pattern looked nothing like my Indigenous father or the Cree men I knew during my childhood.  In my appropriated version of the Indian Test Pattern, I remove this stereotypical image and develop a self-defined cultural representation.

The inspiration for this project began in the fall of 2011. I had created a beaded rosette pattern comprised of a circle divided into quarters by a stylized cross symbol.  After producing this image, I realized that it reminded me of the Indian Head Test Pattern. This recognition provoked my interest in exploring the politics of the Indian Head image and its unconscious  influence upon my perceptions of my culture and its impact upon my art practice.

I began by simulating the Indian Head Test Pattern's historic presentation on television broadcasts by digitally rendering the image on a vintage 1960's television.

Test Pattern # 1 distrupted this stereotypical presentation by incorporating a traditional beadwork design created by my sister-in-law, Ojibway artist Jerrilynn Harper. With the use of her design in my artwork I acknowledge the Indigenous women who through their hands continue the tradition of using glass beads to create traditional patterns that have ancient Indigenous significance. This piece also  represents my personal links to the domestic arts taught to me by my maternal grandmother Georgia Lowe.

In the second  artwork, Test Pattern #2 , I created patterns of optical movement using porcupine quills to convey a visual language originally portrayed on buffalo hides. Scholar, Debra Doxtator eloquently acknowledges that the “often collaborative process of gathering and preparing materials and repeating (although never exactly) the patterns of making traditional forms, in and of itself teaches and imparts knowledge.” 

Through this artwork, I negotiate and develop a Cree-Métis visual language that disrupts stereotypical perceptions of the 'imaginary Indian' perpetuated by the television Indian Head Test Pattern of my childhood and re-interpret it with a re-visioning of traditional  geometric Cree designs.


Add Text Here...

The reclamation of my Cree-Métis identity involves looking at the two cultures that are part of my ancestry and how the tension between the two have created a psychic space that has inspired the creation of my tartan paintings.

The idea to create my own Baird Tartan arose initially from my desire to address my ancestry.
The original Baird Tartan speaks to me aesthetically because of its geometric integrity and its similarity to abstract Cree porcupine quill and beadwork patterns.

I then manipulated the Tartan pattern, first by using it as a template from which I digitally created new geometric shapes while preserving the original design comprised of crisscrossed, horizontal and vertical bands of multiple colours.

The connections and processes visually encoded in the original Baird tartan suggested multiple meanings and potential Indigenous contemporary interpretations to me. Differently layered colours of ribbons and beadwork cross and metaphorically allude to the possible intersections of different cultures that make up mixed heritage, which is a continuing focus of my current art practice.

The Original Baird Tartan Design

Tartan Fabric Work, silk ribbon, embroidery thread, glass seed beads, 2012

Tartan Series #1, Digital media work on canvas with Abalone shell buttons with
seed beads, 38” by 38” square, 2012

Tartan Series #3, Digital media work on canvas, 38” by 38” square, 2012

Tartan Series #2, Digital media work on canvas, 38” by 38” square

Detail, Tartan Series #3, Digital media work on
canvas, 38” by 38” square, 2012

Tartan Series #2,  Digital media work on canvas, 38” by 38” square, 2012

Detail, Tartan Series #2,  Digital media work on canvas,
38” by 38” square, 2012
Detail, Tartan Series #1, Digital media work on canvas with
Abalone shell buttons with seed beads, 38” by 38” square, 2012


Cree Star Blanket, digital quilt w/beadwork, 0.914 x 0.914 m, 2014 

The Star Blanket celebrates my Cree background as it's understood to represent a symbolic marker of relationships within both individual and collective lives.  Star Blankets traditionally receive, enclose and acknowledge the individual relationships that create moments of connection within a community and the wider universe.

My  work draws upon the traditional  Star Blanket design, comprised of a concentric arrangement of diamond shapes around a circle that Wendat scholar, George Sioui describes as the positioning of the individual within a sacred circle of relationships among all living beings.

Cree Star Blanket, 2014, integrates digital technology to investigate and reconstruct the patterns and layers embedded within the traditional composition of the Star Blanket in order to  explore the evolving dynamism and motion of relationships  originally suggested within  this enduring cultural marker.

Experiment #1, 24" x 24", digital print, 2011

Test Pattern #2,  24" x 24", airbrush on board, 2011

Detail, Test Pattern #2,  24" x 24", airbrush on board, 2011

Test Pattern #1,  24" x 24", airbrush on board, 2011

Test Pattern in Four Layers, , 24" x 24",  plexiglass and adhesive imagery, 2011


The Great Mystery, 1996, speaks to the profound breath of experience found within a healthcare facility, paying hommage to those who provide care for a community and offer a tangible affirmation of the power of people to help and comfort one another, throughout the full cycles of our lives.

We are in an age where more and more of us find ourselves removed from nature and spirituality. WIthin that reality, many plants have become totems of our times,  symbols of a more natural and healthy way of life now representative of a past "greener" lifestyle.

The surrounding imagery in The Great Mystery illustrates the interconnectedness of life on this planet. I have included four medicines honored by the Native peoples: Sage, Sweetgrass, Cedar and Tobacco related to the traditional healing practices that involved the person, body, mind and spirit, holistically.

The image of the basket completes the composition and represents the wisdom of the grandmothers, basketmakers who preserve the culture and knowledge of the medicines. The strong colours incorporated in the work capture the robust, enduring beauty of the natural world. The sweeping arch of the wall painting embraces and depicts both the flow of nature and the curvature of time.

It is my hope that the staff and the patients who view this piece have the opportunity to look within themselves and discover the harmony within all creation as part of the healing process.