David Garneau was both personally and artistically inspired by the Idle No More movement founded in 2012. "I took part in a number of round dances, including the one on the Albert Street Bridge, which was thrilling. It was wonderful to see a mix of folks coming out - there were lots of youth involved. It was awesome."
Adding to photos taken with his own camera, Garneau scoured Facebook, media and the web to collect hundreds of images from demonstrations across Canada. He quickly decided to turn the images into a quilt painting. "Traditionally, quilts document families over many years and will have hidden messages in them," he says. "People who participated may recognize themselves in the quilt, or images that passed through their screens during the Idle No More movement."
He began by collaging the images, arranging and rearranging them for weeks, trying to get them just right, then painting them on 16 canvases. Garneau originally thought the project would be finished in six months, but it ended up taking two years - more than 600 hours - to complete! "It's the most time I've spent on a painting. I once did a 36 foot by 6 foot piece, and I don't think that took as long as this!"
The effort was worth it. In addition to creating a stunning painting that honours the movement's legacy, Garneau says that throughout the process, he "felt so much pleasure recreating those moments and feeling aligned and connected with folks across country," he says. "I wanted to make something substantial that would go past the ephemeral moment."
Idle No More! (quilt) is now part of the Saskatchewan Arts Board's Permanent collection. The Arts Board loaned it to the Idle No More and other Quilt Paintings exhibition at Mata Gallery in Regina.
Idle No More! (quilt), 2014
Oil on canvas
204 × 162 cm
The Saskatchewan Arts Board's Permanent Collection contains over 3,000 works by more than 600 artists and represents the work of Saskatchewan artists over the past six decades. For more information, visit the Permanent Collection page.
David Garneau (Métis) is Associate Professor of Visual Arts at the University of Regina. He is a painter of drive-by landscapes, Métis themes, maps, comics, and quilts. He is also a curator and writer most interested in the collision of nature and culture, metaphysics and materialism, and in contemporary Indigenous identities. He has curated large group, two-person and solo exhibitions and written numerous catalogue essays and reviews. He has recently given talks in Melbourne, Adelaide, New York, San Diego, Sacramento, Saskatoon, and keynote lectures in Sydney, Toronto, Edmonton and Sault Ste Marie. Garneau is currently working on curatorial and writing projects featuring contemporary Indigenous art and curatorial exchanges between Canada and Australia, and is part of a five-year, SSHRC funded curatorial research project, "Creative Conciliation."