Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Residential school artwork 'raw, visceral, troubling'

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THE University of Manitoba's School of Art Gallery has purchased a series of paintings by prominent First Nations artist Robert Houle documenting his time in a residential school in the 1950s.

The 24 works have been put on display until Oct. 11 and will be available for loan to other galleries across the country, said Mary Reid, director and curator of the School of Art Gallery.

The series was created in 2009 as a way for Houle, now 66 and living in Toronto, to come to terms with his memories of the Sandy Bay residential school on the shores of Lake Manitoba.

"They're very raw and visceral, and can be quite troubling to look at," Reid said of the oilstick-on-paper works, which depict both the exterior and interior of the school, including scenes inside a dormitory room.

"He has spoken a lot about how these works have let him overcome or let go of the pain that those memories have caused him."

The Canada Council for the Arts awarded the gallery the 2013 York Wilson endowment to acquire the series.

The $30,000-purchase coincides with the school of art's 100th anniversary this year.

As well, earlier this year, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada chose the University of Manitoba to become the permanent site of a National Research Centre to house documents and other residential school-related materials gathered by the commission during its five-year mandate.

Houle, an Anishinabe artist, was the first curator of contemporary Indian art at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, from 1977 to 1980.

His most recent exhibition, Paris/Ojibwa, toured in Canada and was also shown at the Canadian Cultural Centre in Paris.

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 25, 2013 A7

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