"Real power is about finding our own spiritual guidance and helping others find theirs; it is about admitting our own limitations and ignorance so that spiritual power and wisdom can work through us; it is about empowerment and transformation."
- Jane Ash Poitras (Gerald McMaster and Lee-Ann Martin, eds., Indigena: Contemporary Art Perspectives, Canadian Museum of Civilization, 1992)
Jane Ash Poitras began to seek her Chipewyan roots only in early adulthood, after a Roman Catholic upbringing. She earned a degree in microbiology and then went on to study art, completing her postgraduate studies in printmaking at Columbia University in 1985. There she was exposed to the work of American artists including Mark Rothko, Kurt Schwitters, Robert Rauschenberg, and Cy Twombly. Like them, she layers images and text into multiple narrative strands, a technique she has carried from printmaking to painting.
Poitras has pursued the knowledge and practice of indigenous spirituality for many years, embracing personal, historical, and contemporary aspects of Native spiritual life. She has sought to understand and enrich her own spiritual being through research, the teaching of elders and shamans, and participation in ceremonial life. She has also explored the relationship of personal identity with cultural identity and the history of Native people, integrating these into her art making.