Delicate and fragile, yet strong and powerful: the art of Faye Heavyshield appears minimal, but is brimming with suggestion. It addresses the troubled existence of a Native woman who grew up within the confines of a residential school on the Blood Reserve in Alberta, Canada.
In 1980, at the age of twenty-six, Heavyshield entered the Alberta College of Art and focused on her identity as a Native woman, mining her family memories and experiences. She began combining material objects such as bones, grass, and wood with personal stories to create an art that evokes strength, anger, and determination. Not wanting to manipulate or decorate her past, Heavyshield voices these memories simply. She says she will not "try to dress a memory because that would just weigh it down" (Bone Things: The Art of Faye Heavyshield, 1992).
"One of my earliest and strongest memories is that of my father skinning a deer... the beauty of the animal's eyes, serene in death, the smell of blood, the crackle of fat as the hide was peeled away, and the great taste of the meal my mother cooked. This image and others I saw later in statues of Jesus on the cross, in the architecture of the old homes - tepee poles before the skin/canvas [covered them] and structures left over from the Sundance, in the bodies of the old. When I began my formal art training, these influences surfaced in the form of biomorphic images, skeletal armatures with vestiges of 'flesh,' using architectural and figurative language. Monochromatic, after the solitude and simplicity of the prairie. Sometimes building the surface up and then working back from there, peeling the layers."
- Faye Heavyshield, 1992