Fort St. John artist Kristen Auger honored in national student art competition
Kristen Auger first discovered the intricate beaded balaclavas made and worn by her Cree ancestors when she started college four years ago.
But it wasn’t until the Fort St. John artist got pregnant with her first son late last year that she delved into the history of the significance of formal attire and decided to create her own hood for her final art project. at the First Nations University of Canada in Saskatchewan.
âI couldn’t find a lot of information from the locals about this. From my research, I found out that a lot of married women would, âsaid Auger, 29, who received her Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in Indian Art earlier this year.
âI called a family member to find out whyâ¦ married women made these balaclavas. My family and I have talked about it traditionally in First Nations communities, when you get married and have children, you have a greater responsibility towards the community, passing on the First Nations language and teachings.
Auger’s final product, NÃ®pihikan PimÃ¢tisiwin: The life of flowers, recently earned recognition as a regional winner of the BMO 1er Art! Invitational student art competition, which honors excellence in visual arts at post-secondary institutions across Canada. It was accompanied by a $ 5,000 prize and the opportunity to exhibit his work at the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery at the University of Toronto later this month.
Auger said she spent three and a half months weaving thousands of tiny ball-point pen-sized beads into woolen fabric and flower shapes based on family designs.
âWhat I did was draw the design on a piece of paper and put the paper on the wool,â Auger said.
âI just bead on the paper like regular drawing paper. Once everything was beaded, I removed the paper with tweezers. This is how I was able to get the design and exactly where I wanted it.
Auger, who is of Cree Plains First Nations descent, chose to attend the First Nations University of Canada in Regina for his Cree culture, language and history classes. She hadn’t finalized her plans for her final art project until she learned she was pregnant and gave birth to her son, Zayden, last July.
âAfter four years of college learning more about my culture, I felt it was something I needed to do and that it was appropriate for me to do it,â Auger said.
Although hoods were an important part of Swampy and Moose Cree culture in Ontario and the James Bay region of Quebec in the 18th and 19th centuries, the cultural practice has been largely lost. But Auger notes that there has been a recent resurgence and hopes his work keeps that momentum going.
âPeople are interested in them and want to bring them back,â she said.
âIt’s really greatâ¦ to be able to do that. If I can inspire someone to bring these things back, or to continue practicing cultural traditions, that’s one of my goals as an artist.