This month the PNR is highlighting some of the artists who are a part of the eighth annual Invitational First Nations, Inuit and Métis Art Show that runs at the Mary Winspear Centre until the end of this month.
Today’s feature artist is Sherry Leigh Williams.
Williams is Métis, a painter and makes jewelry and sings. When she was younger, she did more wildlife pencil and realism work and was a self-taught artist before going to art school.
“I always was creative. I used to draw pictures of my dad’s bullets, his rifle shells when I couldn’t find a pencil as a kid. And I used to take the front piece of white paper inside of all of his good hard covered books my dad loved to read so I’d snitch all the paper and draw… It was always an obsession,” she told the PNR.
It was in ’96 that her piece was chosen for an images and objects art show that the province had at the time. All of the communities in B.C had different events and her piece was selected to go on tour of the province.
A small setback
Williams later made her way to the island and attended art school in 2001 through Victoria College of Art and did a three year program there. She was then about to complete four years at the University of Victoria, but just shy of finishing her degree she was in a couple of car accidents, suffering from a brain injury, so was unable to finish her degree.
“I’m hoping to try now and maybe go back this year and see if I can finish those last few courses,” she said. “Because I’d had the brain injury I couldn’t bare colour and I couldn’t bare the fluorescent lights and noise …”
Her injuries didn’t stop her from continuing on with her passion. She did a whole series in white or shades of white because it was easier on her eyes. She then became very interested in what she calls women’s work.
“So underneath the surface of my most of my paintings you’ll find bits of embroidery,” she said. “And it became really fascinating to me in part, I think, because as a person of mixed heritage, I think that it also sort of echoes my own reality. Tere’s these bits and pieces of me that are this and that and it’s sort of a collection …”
Archiving and preserving
Williams began collecting and working with fabrics underneath the paint, as she became interested in archiving and preserving what she calls women’s work.
“To sit and look at these beautiful embroidery and crochet and all this stuff that somebody’s mother or grandmother (would wear) what did she think about? What were her heartaches? What were her joys?” she said, adding that it may not have been considered craft for many years, but it’s pieces of people’s lives.
Not about the process
For Williams, learning to paint free expression became a fascinating way to work.
“I always believe that art in itself is healing and I’m also a healer, so I’m a Reiki master and I do healing work with people and so I became very interested in my own journey. Some of my own discoveries were as I worked, especially working this way, you can’t control the outcome… when you put things under the surface and you start to paint, images will appear….”
She said she loves the idea of allowing herself to just let go and begin, not worrying about the outcome.
“I get lost in the process and I love the little discoveries and the things that happen and that for me becomes so engaging and so exciting and also at the same time very meditative and helps reduce stress.”
Weaving in culture
“I feel like it is my culture, the way that I work and everything I do is my culture because it’s who I am.”