Frank Shebageget is an Anishnawbe artist, originally from Upsala, Ont. (Amy Hadley/CBC) Artist Frank Shebageget draws endless inspiration from his roots in northwestern Ontario.
Although he now lives in Ottawa, his experiencing growing up in the small northern community of Upsala are at the centre of his work, and nowhere is that more evident than in Cell , a large-scale sculptural installation made up of 49 nylon fishing nets, and recently acquired by the Thunder Bay Art Gallery.
"I take my inspiration from where I grew up, and things I grew up with within my family," said Shebageget.
"And then the idea of just this hunting, fishing culture, and just kind of basically surviving in northern Ontario." "Everyday materials can be beautiful, and can be turned into artwork," said artist Frank Shebageget, referring to his installation, Cell, made of fishing nets and hooks. (Amy Hadley/CBC) Now, the work, which is inspired by the northwest, will now find a permanent home in the region. The Thunder Bay Art Gallery won the 2018 York Wilson Endowment Award, administered by the Canada Council for the Arts, which allowed it to purchase the installation.
The luminous and semi-transparent structure makes a perfect addition to the Thunder Bay Art Gallery’s collection, said acting curator Andrea Terry, because of the gallery’s mandate to collect and exhibit works by Indigenous artists, and artists from the region.
"No gallery outside of south-central Ontario owns a work by Frank in their collection, so because he’s from Upsala, because so many of his memories and ideas and concepts relate to his time here, it was really important for us to bring this to the collection," she said. Visitors to the gallery are invited to walk around the work, to appreciate how it looks from different vantage points. (Amy Hadley/CBC) Shebageget said it feels like things have come "full-circle," to see Cell find a home in the northwest. While in art school, he worked summer jobs at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery, he explained, and was inspired by the Indigenous artists represented in its collection.
"To have my work sitting next to theirs … I think that’s pretty amazing, and important," he said.
Cell will be showing until March 3 as part of a multi-artist exhibit at the gallery.
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