December 2015

Jane Ash Poitras “Caribou Heaven”, 2000, mixed media on canvas. 91.4 x 121.9 cm. Gift of Reginald Bennett, 2001

Jane Ash Poitras
Caribou Heaven, 2000
mixed media on canvas
91.4 x 121.9 cm
Gift of Reginald Bennett, 2001

It was only in early adulthood that Jane Ash Poitras began to investigate her Cree heritage. Born in the isolated community of Fort Chipewyan, Alberta in 1951, at age six Poitras lost her mother to tuberculosis and was placed in the foster care system. She soon found a permanent home with an elderly German-Canadian widow, who integrated her into Edmonton’s public school and Catholic Church communities. Poitras went on to attend the University of Alberta, where she earned a B.Sc. in microbiology and a BFA in printmaking. These were followed by a MFA in Printmaking from Columbia University in New York City.

The painting montage Caribou Heaven gives evidence of Poitras’ ongoing examination of issues surrounding acculturation. The artist builds her testimonial by layering paint, pictograms, photographic clippings, handwritten and printed text, and a collection of animal claws recessed in a wooden tray. Posed archival photographs of Inuit performing their daily tasks are silkscreened overtop traditional drawings of fishing, hunting and family dwellings with the provocative headline “A More Civilized Lifestyle”.

Jane Ash Poitras’ art has been exhibited across Canada and around the world. Her work is held in numerous prestigious collections, including the Art Gallery of Ontario, Vancouver Art Gallery, National Gallery of Canada, Brooklyn Museum and Yale University. She was a recipient of the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Distinguished Artist Award in 2011. Poitras is a highly sought-after guest lecturer across North America and overseas. She lives and works in Alberta.