Mariel Belanger is one of the artists featured in an upcoming exhibit at the Lake Country Art Gallery.

Syilx art celebrated at Atlokem (Winfield)

Okanagan artist David Wilson brings together exhibit featuring Barb Marchand, Mariel Belanger, Sheldon Louis, and the Okanagan Indian Band Youth Group

Atklokem is an anglicized version of the Syilx name describing the Winfield area, which sits at the heart of Lake Country, nestled between Wood Lake to the east and Okanagan Lake to the west.

Atklokem is also the name of an exhibit of contemporary Syilx art coming to the Lake Country art gallery.

Brought together by Okanagan artist David Wilson, the exhibit features the work of Barb Marchand, Mariel Belanger, Sheldon Louis, and the Okanagan Indian Band Youth Group. This Indigenous-focused exhibition encompasses painting, mixed media, sculpture and performance, and runs Aug. 16 to Sept. 29. An opening reception takes place Aug. 15 from 6 to 8 p.m.

“Youth can at times struggle to lasting connections due to lack of mentorship and role models,” said Louis, an Okanagan Indian Band councillor and board member of the North Okanagan Arts Council.

“By creating a public art piece in the community the youth will be able to interact and form healthy and respectful interactions through the arts. This mural project at the Lake Country Art Gallery will allow the youth to engage with all levels of the community.

“The visual art piece(s) will be inspired and rooted in the history and traditional stories of the Syilx people. The design/image will be based upon the tradition of Syilx history in the Lake Country area.”

READ MORE: Okanagan College Vernon campus flies Syilx flag

Louis also mentored with Marchand, a respected artist and elder. Marchand has long been interested in the history of her ancestors, their traditional language and the legends, which connected her to the landscape and its inhabitants.

This led her to immerse herself in the study of the Syilx language in an effort to gain a better understanding of the stories and history of the Okanagan First Nations people and in doing so, her own history.

Wilson learned through teachings and mentorship of Coast Salish and Haida artists early in his career.

“My style of painting has developed through exploring Interior Salish pictograph art forms, combining vibrant colours and linear forms within a circular picture format,” said Wilson, adding that the creative process happens through discussion and collaborative dialogue with viewers on artistic style, techniques, interpretations and exchanging stories or expressive ideas.

Belanger is dedicated to contributing to the growth of interdisciplinary arts as a method to engage Indigenous community, language, culture, and act as a bridge to society telling stories of our time.

As an artist scholar, her research is about identity through the lens of Indigenous ways of knowing and being, customary law, Indigenous feminism and performance theory, exploring how cultural identity is rebuilt through oral history and performance practice.

There will be public programming throughout the run of the exhibition including artist talks and the unveiling of the youth mural project.

Also taking place on Aug. 10 is a public art unveiling and reception for David Jacob Harder’s Orb sculpture.

There is also a night picnic on Aug. 16, 6 to 10 p.m.

READ MORE: Armstrong artists holding anti-racism workshop in Vernon


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