Janice Iniskim-Aki Tanton
Janice Tanton is an interdisciplinary artist, working for over 24 years to create works that resonate widely. An Alumna of Distinction (Creative Arts & Design) from Durham College, also studying at the University of Windsor BFA (Acting), Janice continued her interest in the arts, working professionally in theatre, film, music, vocal performance and graphic design, culminating in the launch of her own art, publishing and design company in 1989.
She quickly developed a wide network for her art throughout North America, securing major corporate accounts and licensing opportunities while operating two commercial galleries and a design/fine art studio. Her entrepreneurial success led to an invitation as a delegate to the first Businesswomen’s Summit between Canada and the U.S. as well as a nomination for the Rotman Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Janice’s work resides in numerous corporate and private collections across the globe.
In 2005, Janice moved with her family to Treaty 7 Territory (Canmore, Alberta) where she accepted a position to serve as Program Manager for Aboriginal Leadership at The Banff Centre. Setting aside a successful art career to devote time to her young family and her new role, Janice discovered artistic inspiration and support through close relationships with faculty and participants from Aboriginal communities from across Canada and Australia. She is greatly honoured to have been adopted as the daughter of Elder Tom Crane Bear of the Siksika Nation (NAAF Culture and Spirituality Award Recipient), initiated into the pow wow dance circle, is a tipi owner, has been given the Blackfoot name Iniskim-Aki (Buffalo Stone Woman). Curious as to how to reconcile the wide spectrum of diversity within her communities and families, Janice began to work in a new vein of artistic exploration. Focusing upon these cross-cultural relationships through painting, film and a melding of performance arts practices, she launched the Community Fusion Project with the support of a grant award from the Canada Council for the Arts.
Janice retired from her role in Aboriginal Leadership at The Banff Centre at the end of 2010 to devote her time solely to her art studio and project work. She continues her strong relationships with aboriginal communities and leaders across Canada with the focus of her work centered upon artfully discovering the colourful contemporary threads of commonality woven within the remarkable diversity of our species. Janice’s breaks new ground by exploring the intersection of collaborative cross-cultural arts practices to strengthen relationships through practice in the arts.
She is working hard at becoming a Full Time Human Being.
Oki Niksokowa - Hello, All My Relations
By Janice Tanton
Thursday Sept 17 – Friday Oct 9, 2015
Artist reception 1-3pm Saturday September 26, 2015 – Everyone is welcome!
I am an artist working in paint, sculpture, installation and film. My work examines relationships through a spiritual, cross-cultural and intergenerational framework. My research interests lie in examining how practice and process in the arts can influence our core humanity so we can co-exist in more sustainable ways. The ugly narrative of racism is looming larger in the Canadian lexicon. I hold that it is still Britishly difficult for us to talk openly about such things. Art is one way to have that conversation. Deep relational development and understanding are what I consider the key to this research. I am keenly interested in exploring my own life experiences and connectivity to indigenous traditional knowledge, language, spiritual practice and ways of knowing. I seek ways of reconciliation in the spaces in between my art practice, the teachings of Elders, ceremony and comparative analysis with my Euro-centric, colonistic roots.
My work is always underpinned with a contemplative connection to the land, the Creator, and all other beings I encounter, for I have a deep relational connection to all of these elemental mysteries. Spanning the spectrum from structured, detailed and traditional to conceptual, spiritual and contemporary, visibly juxtaposing key elements from each cultural tradition to which I belong, I create works which have resonance to our shared core humanity.
Oki Niksokowa means, “Hello, All My Relations” in Blackfoot. It is a concept that encompasses all beings in the category “relations” and simultaneously recognizes a familial relationship of the highest order to all that exists. It opens the door by it’s simple ‘Hello!” Humans, animals, birds, water creatures, spirit beings, land beings, unknown beings – the full gamut that we may imagine and know. Imagine for one moment, the deepest relationship of love that you have with someone – perhaps a family member, spouse or lover. As a Mother, one of the deepest bonds of love I have is with my children. I ask you for a moment, to take that fierce love and imagine a river…a bison…a wolf….a rock…a falling star… a blade of grass…being your child, your loved one – our relation. Think of how that may change about how you consider that animal, place or cosmos. That is how I consider ‘All Your Relations’ and grow my love and respect for all that is around me.
In Oki Niksokowa – All My Relations, I have prepared paintings for Canada House Gallery that are very, very personal to me and the relationships that I have with just some of the beings, things and places that have touched my life. In some cases, the objects remind me of a significant place on this land that is related to me, that I have come to love unconditionally and wholly. In some cases, the animals represent the spirit of a loved one as well as the ‘relation’ that they are… in and of themselves. Place and home has deep meaning for me and this is reflected in the iconic image of the lodge. As a tipi bundle owner, I understand the meanings, the stories and importance of the lodge, the symbols of the land, the animals and the cosmos that are embedded with song and story – not to be separated, but as one bundle of sacred place and protection. Having a ‘home’ is an important relational element and the lodge bundle is symbolic of that.
In 2012, I was privileged to be one of three Artists in Residence in Gwaii Haanas National Park and was welcomed by Parks Canada, The Haida Nation and the people of Haida Gwaii to their rich and sacred land and waters. It changed my life with its vast, abundant and ecologically rich treasures and gave me hope to see a government agency and an indigenous culture co-managing one of the most life-giving places on this planet. I learned much from our Haida guides and hosts, and this had a great spiritual effect on me. I began to understand the Super Natural beings – those that occupy the space in between the tangible world and the world of the spirit beings. I could see them clearly on the island as the trees and growth in the forests moved and accelerated around me – everything was crawling with life of some kind. I understand what it means to occupy space between cultures, and it is difficult. Much of that goes unseen, somewhat like the Super Natural beings. The pieces that I paint of the carved poles of Haida Gwaii with the moving, changing anthropomorphic rainforests around them are my attempt to capture that spiritual piece of movement – that space in between worlds where even more of our relations inhabit and where they make themselves known. It is a given for any who will deeply listen to the land. ‘Tanuu Rising’ specifically uses Bill Reid’s pole carved as the first new pole in Skidegate. I married the painting together by using a place I visited on Tanuu near Mr. Reid’s resting place. The work Mr. Reid and those that followed created a catalyst for the rise in Haida cultural practice after a period of decimation due to colonialist assimilation policies, sickness and industrial commodification of the land.
Canoes have always been deeply imbedded in my life. Metaphorically, I’d say I was conceived in a canoe in the east, born in a barn, raised on the back of a horse and thrown to the wolves in the West. All of these are sacred space to me. It wasn’t until later in life that I realized that there was a much deeper history to the canoe than sentimental warm summers spent paddling on the lakes and rivers in Ontario. What strikes me most about the red canoe now is it’s formidable duality. It’s an awful, bloodthirsty, iconic symbol of colonialism (as is the Hudson Bay Blanket) that none of us wish to discuss in proper societal conversation or proper nation to nation negotiations. Indigenous by design, the canoe has never been improved upon except perhaps for constructive materials after thousands of years. Form and function are perfectly in sync. It harbours many nostalgic memories for the modern-day white folk such as myself who remember idyllic paddling on the shores of Lake Kashagawigamog, Algonquin and Killarney Parks. However, at its origin, it was a tool of transportation and survival for indigenous cultures, shared (usually) graciously with early traders to ensure their survival in this punishing county’s formative years. As a matter of honour, we need to recognize this “Canoe Treaty” and work hand in hand with the indigenous peoples of this land, honour those treaties and go beyond, as human beings – beyond racism, beyond litigation and beyond fear, to become ourselves again – human beings. That is what a red canoe is to me. It’s a treaty to be honoured. My relationship to the canoe is reverent and thankful…hopeful and peaceful as I look on my two families and as we look toward reconciliation as a nation. And yes…our family care for a white canoe and a red canoe…on purpose.
Oki Niksokowa – All My Relations also debuts a new body of work featuring a marriage of animals and Blackfoot tipi symbols in a healing way. Using a more representative style of painting for the animals – moose, buffalo, bear, wolf and coupling them with the more graphically designed glyphs of the Blackfoot, I’ve sought out a way to meld my traditional Eurocentric painting roots and upbringing with the more abstract use of indigenous symbols. A ceremony of mark-making was used to denote my relationship with both the animal and the symbology and is marked by my own handprint in each of these paintings. It forever links us together and recognize those relationships, thanking them for their healing. Anthropomorphic relationships also exist in these paintings to some extent. “Makoyii Itsikin” is Tom’s Blackfoot name, and so this painting represents Tom as I see him, as a whole with the colours and places that I associate him with. All of the animals are healers and people for me, and represent some relationship with me through my life, helping me through illness and difficult times.
Gilda Radner said, “Cancer is probably the most unfunniest thing in the world, but I’m a comedian, and even cancer couldn’t stop me from seeing the humour in what I went through.” I agree with you, Gilda. The importance of humour became more real to me when I was sick, and it made me learn to look at the lighter side of a dark situation. No other place than with my indigenous family, have I ever found more belly laughing. When faced with difficult social issues, suicide, missing and murdered women and girls, racism…there is somehow always this respectful, leavening humour that balances the family and community. I admire this greatly, and thought – how do I honour this humour and humility in paint? How do I find more joy in my work? Hence – “Don’t Forget the Eggs”, “Zippity Doo Dah” and other such pieces in the “Ever Real” series.
The most important and most personal piece in this show “The Promise:: Sacred Bundle - Stonechild”. It was the piece that was started first, and it will be the painting that is completed last, if ever. A 60x60 oil on linen with my daughter Grace as the model, wrapped in a Hudson Bay blanket in the Banff woods, on the side of Buffalo Mountain in Banff, it was conceived last October during my residency at The Banff Centre where I created “Undercurrents” (exhibited at the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies to October 18, 2015). Stonechild has presided over the studio for a year while these other pieces were imagined and created. She remains the symbol of promise for me – the promise that we can follow the Seven Grandfather Teachings – wisdom, love, respect, bravery, honesty, humility and truth; the promise that we can come together; the promise that we can laugh at our troubles while finding new ways to live together; the promise that we can honour the spiritual and the scientific and the space between; the promise that we can honour the canoe and all that it means to us as Canadians; the promise that we can find healing, together…in many forms.
Oki Niksokowa – Hello, All My Relations.
2013 Cenovus Art Competition Purchase Award
2011 Canada Council for the Arts – ACDI Individual Visual Arts Project Grant Award
2009 Gulpa Ngawal – Project nominated for Australian Arts and Business Project Award
2009 Premier’s Award Nominee – Creative Arts and Design, Toronto, ON
2009 Pow Wow Circle Dance Initiation – Blackfoot Cultural Ceremony – Siksika, AB
2008 Tipi Bundle Holder/ Transfer - Inoyoos – Blackfoot Ceremonial Transfer – Banff, AB
2008 Blackfoot Naming Ceremony – Blackfoot Cultural Ceremony – Banff, AB
2008 Adopted into the Siksika/Blackfoot Nation as Daughter of Elder Tom Crane Bear (NAAF Culture & Spirituality Award Recipient, 08), Siksika, AB
2008 Canada Council for the Arts – ACDI Individual Visual Arts Project Grant Award
2008 Alumna of Distinction Award – Arts and Communication, Durham College, ON
2001 Rotman Canadian Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award Nominee, ON
San Fernando/Santa Clarita
Child Abuse Prevention Council
Country Home Candle Co. Inc.
The Bradford Exchange
Pine Ridge Art Inc.
Town of Canmore
FX Schmid Puzzle Co.
Barnes and Noble
The Banff Centre
2009 The Banff Centre, Inoyoos – Buffalo Lodge, Banff, AB
2008 7 Grandfather Teachings, Leadership Development, The Banff Centre, Banff, AB
2000 The Venator Group – “Kanata Millenium Countryside”
2015 Visting Artist Lecture, University of Calgary, Calgary AB
2014 Indigenous Ingenuity, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Banff AB
2012 Canmore Studio Tour: Artist In Gwaii Haanas, Canmore, AB
2012 Summer Series Lectures: Artist In Gwaii Haanas, Skidegate, BC
2011 TEDxCalgary: “The Language of The Creator” (TEDx talk), Calgary, AB
2010 Living The Creative Community Life, Banff, AB
2010 Establishing Effective Aboriginal Relationships, “Bar Code – Pro Pelle Cutem”, Visualizing the Relationship, The Banff Centre, Banff AB
2010 Artfully Negotiating, The Community Fusion Project, The Banff Centre, Banff, AB
2009 Strategic Planning, Song Composition and Drum-making Creatively, The Banff Centre, AB
2009 The Community Fusion Project, Alberta Arts Day ,Canmore Public Art Gallery, Canmore AB
2009 The Community Fusion Project, The Banff Centre, Banff AB
2009 The Indigenous Deep Listening Project, The Banff Centre, Banff AB
2009 World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education, Melbourne, AU
2009 Koorie Heritage Trust, Gulpa Ngawal: Indigenous Deep Listening Project, Melbourne, AU
2009 Monash University, Gulpa Ngawal: Indigenous Deep Listening Project, Churchill, AU
2008 Convocation Keynote Address, Durham College; GM Centre, Oshawa, ON
2008 Seven Grandfather Teachings, The Banff Centre, LD, Banff AB
2014 Leighton Artist’s Colony, The Banff Centre, Artist in Residence, Banff, AB
2014 Joe Creek Artist Residency, Artist in Residence, Roberts Creek, BC
2013 Leighton Artist’s Colony, The Banff Centre, Artist in Residence, Banff, AB
2012 Fall Artist In Residence (BAIR), The Banff Centre, Banff, AB
2012 Gwaii Haanas National Park, Parks Canada: Artists in Haida Gwaii, Haida Gwaii, BC
2011 Leighton Artist’s Colony, The Banff Centre, Artist in Residence, Banff, AB
2010 Leighton Artist’s Colony, The Banff Centre, Artist in Residence, Banff, AB
2009 Leighton Artist’s Colony, The Banff Centre, Artist in Residence, Banff, AB
2015 Bo Bartlett Master Class, Columbus State University, Atlanta, GA
2014 Bo Bartlett Master Class, Columbus State University, Atlanta, GA
2014 Intermediate Ceramics, The Banff Centre, Banff, AB
2010 Video 2.0, Banff New Media Institute, The Banff Centre, Banff, AB
2009 The Art of Visual Storytelling, BNMI, The Banff Centre, Banff, AB
2009 Arts Leadership, The Banff Centre, Banff, AB
2009 Leadership Development; Strategic Planning Establishing Effective Aboriginal Relationships, The Banff Centre, Banff, AB
2008 Inherent Right to Indigenous Governance, Leading Teams for High Performance The Banff Centre, Banff, AB
2007 Inspiring Creative Leadership, The Banff Centre, Banff, AB
1980 – 82 University of Windsor, B.F.A. (Acting) program
1985 Durham College, Graphic Design, (Alumna of Distinction)
2017 CANADA 150, Canada House Gallery, Banff, AB
2016 JOY, Canada House Gallery, Banff, AB
2016 DemoDay, Canada House Gallery, Banff, AB
2015 All My Relations, Canada House Gallery, Banff, AB
2015 Gwaii Haanas Bill Reid Gallery, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC
2015 Water: Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Banff, AB
2014 Joy Canada House Gallery, Banff, AB
2014 Dynamic Demo Day, Canada House Gallery, Banff, AB
2014 Ponokamitaa Gibson Fine Art, Calgary, AB
2013 CAMP OAG, Okotoks, AB
2013 Storefront Canmore Alberta Arts Days, Canmore, AB
2013 Thanks But No Tanks Haida Museum, Skidegate, BC
2013 Artists In Gwaii Haanas Haida Museum, Skidegate, BC
2012 Ordinary Alchemy, Bluerock Gallery, Black Diamond, AB
2012 CAMP Calgary, Canmore & Black Diamond AB; Invermere, BC
2012 Gallery Artist’s Exhibition, Gibson Fine Art, Calgary, AB
2012 Gallery Artist’s Exhibition, Effusion Fine Art, Invermere, BC
2011 Sacred/Modern, Elevation Gallery, Canmore, AB
2011 Community Fusion, Los Angeles, CA
2010 Yours, Mine, The Other, Elevation Gallery, Canmore, AB
2010 Community Fusion, Canmore Public Library Gallery, Canmore, AB
2010 Bovinity, Elevation Gallery, Canmore, AB
2010 Offerings/Offrandes, Curator: France Trepanier, Victoria, BC
2010 Some Like It HOT, Elevation Gallery, Canmore, AB
2010 figure::ground, Elevation Gallery, Canmore, AB
2009 The Community Fusion Project Canmore Public Art Gallery, Canmore AB
2009 A Question of Perspective - Size Matters, Elevation Gallery, Canmore, AB
2009 Person, Place, Thing, Elevation Gallery, Canmore, AB
2009 ArtSpeak, Canmore, AB
2008 Indigenous Deep Listening Project: Koori Heritage Trust, Monash & RMIT University, Melbourne, AU
2008 Indigenous Deep Listening Project, The Banff Centre, Banff, AB
2008 Gallery Opening, Stratus Gallery, Banff, AB
2008 Relating to the Masters, Elevation Gallery, Canmore, AB
2008 I Can’t Bear It, Corridor Collective, ArtSpeak, Canmore, AB
2013 Thanks, But No Tanks Exhibition, Haida Museum, Haida Gwaii, BC
2012 CAMP Media installation
2010 child: offering/offrages, Curated by France Trepanier, Victoria, BC
2010 Self-Portrait In Canoe, Media Installation, Elevation Gallery, Canmore, AB
2009 The Community Fusion Project, Director, Writer, Producer, Audio/Podcast/Soundscape, Film/Media Projects
2009 Gulpa Ngawal, Indigenous Deep Listening Project, Singer, songwriter, musician
2009 APROS CONFERENCE JOURNAL– An Aesthetic Approach to Leadership and Organizational Development: The Deep Listening Model for Research and Cultural Renewal (Janice Tanton, Artist & Program Manager, Aboriginal Leadership, The Banff Centre; Dr. Laura Brearley, Monash University, AU & Brian Calliou, Director of Aboriginal Leadership, The Banff Centre)
2009 IFACCA – “Intercultural Dialogue through The Arts & Culture Discussion Pa
2012 Artist In Residence, Gwaii Haanas National Park, Haida Gwaii, BC
2012 Artist In The Schools, Canmore & Exshaw, AB
2011 Series Instructor, Red Deer College, Red Deer, AB
2011 Haliburton School of Fine Art/Sir Sandford Fleming College, Haliburton, ON
2005-10 The Banff Centre, various Aboriginal Arts Leadership and Engagement, Program Manager/Facilitator, and Leadership Development