Nov. 2, 2023

Nickle Galleries features work by Kainai First Nation artist Faye HeavyShield

Exhibition spans 40 years of distinguished artist’s career
red dress
red dress, 2008. Nylon, cotton, metal and paper tags, glass beads, 135.5 x 103 x 40 cm. Collection of the Alberta Foundation for the Arts. Andy Nichols, Libraries and Cultural Resources

So far, the exhibition The Art of Faye HeavyShield has travelled to galleries in Regina and Winnipeg. But the third showing, in Nickle Galleries, is especially meaningful because it’s situated on Treaty 7 land, the artist’s home. 

“It’s really good to be home. When you say ‘territory’, I feel it’s more than a homeland and a language. It’s about the family that you make through art. This is really where my art was born,” Faye HeavyShield remarked when the show opened at UCalgary.  

A Blackfoot artist from Kainai First Nation and a UCalgary alumna, HeavyShield has had a rich and accomplished career spanning more than 40 years. She’s also a recipient of a Distinguished Artist Award from the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta. 

HeavyShield is a senior visual artist whose drawings, sculptures, and installations have had a profound influence on art in Canada. Her work draws upon her family histories, traditional Kainai stories, language and knowledge, and it’s deeply rooted in the history of the Canadian Prairies. 

“This is the first retrospective of Faye HeavyShield, who I would say is one of Canada’s most important contemporary artists,” says curator Felicia Gay, a Cree woman from Northern Saskatchewan. Gay notes the exhibition explores a number of themes: absence and presence, connection to the land, and our understanding of time. 


aapaskaiyaawa (they are dancing), 2002. Acrylic on canvas, acrylic paint, beads, plastic filament, 178 x 366 x 183 cm

Andy Nichols, Libraries and Cultural Resources

“When people come to see this show, these are all stories. And if the stories are meant to find you, they’ll be realized to you.” 

The Art of Faye HeavyShield launched Nickle Galleries’ fall season. UCalgary Elder Dr. Reg Crowshoe began the opening reception by giving a Blessing, with many of HeavyShield’s friends and family members in attendance.    

“This exhibition is really spectacular in part because it’s on view with the Nickle’s soaring brutalist architecture as a backdrop,” notes Dr. Michele Hardy, PhD, Nickle Galleries curator.

“With its open spaces and theatrical lighting, The Art of Faye HeavyShield is at once monumental and intimate. Deceptively simple, Faye HeavyShield’s work is layered and complex.”

The Art of Faye HeavyShield runs in Nickle Galleries until Dec. 9 before moving to the Carleton University Art Gallery. This travelling exhibition has been made possible in part by the Government of Canada.

red dress

Andy Nichols, Libraries and Cultural Resources

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