A Syilx artist and community leader has contributed a new painting to UBC Okanagan’s public art collection to represent enduring strength.
Dr. Stacey Koosel, UBCO’s art gallery curator with the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies, worked with Sheldon Pierre Louis to commission the piece.
“We are excited to add this new work to our collection, as Sheldon Pierre Louis is an important Syilx artist with tremendous talel3nt, bravery and influence,” Koosel said.
“This is the first work of his that we have the honour of adding to our public art collection.”
The painting, titled cax̌alqs — red dress, is now on display at the university’s Tower One, the third floor of the Engineering, Management and Education building.
cax̌alqs — red dress features an Indigenous woman wearing a red dress and a face mask. Louis said he wanted to use his platform to be a vessel for change, educating people and opening conversations.
“As a Syilx artist, I have always sought to use my art as a catalyst for discussion, to create spaces where uncomfortable issues can be brought forward into the societal dialogue to be given a voice,” he said.
He said this particular piece has different levels of meaning to it: the mask, of course, represents the pandemic but also represents the “oppression” society is experiencing. The Indigenous woman wearing the mask is standing strong, showing that the mask isn’t a hindrance to her strength.
“The elk teeth on the red dress are a symbol of her deeply rooted and celebrated importance and worth in Indigenous society.
“The red dress is a symbol for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit (MMIWG2S) Movement,” the university said in a statement.
“By placing this image out into the public area of the campus, it gives voice and hopefully a sense that the issues and concerns and spirits of our women will not be silenced and will not go unnoticed,” Louis said.
Louis also has other paintings displayed at the Kelowna International Airport. That series is titled puti kʷala – we are still here and celebrates Syilx history and culture.
Louis will host a talk about his art practice as well as his new commissioned piece. To register, visit UBCO’s events site.