Art Can Heal
Jean E. Tait
Spruce Grove, AB
Interested in art throughout my life, I have a passionate interest in Indigenous culture, symbols, healing and art. These interests have led to my calling to work with all these areas, combining them in my art therapy practice and own art making.
I am an Indigenous woman – Saulteaux (Ojibwe), a member of the Berens River First Nation, located on the eastern shores of Lake Winnipeg. My mother was born on reserve and was brought up by her grandfather, Chief William Berens and her grandmother, Nancy. My great great grandfather was Chief Jacob Berens, the signatory for Treaty No. 5 in 1875. My father is of Celtic ancestry (Shetland Islands).
Although born in eastern Canada, I have lived in or near Edmonton, Alberta since beginning primary school. It was in primary school, that I became fascinated with how the Egyptian hieroglyphics captured an idea and became a record for generations that followed.
I began my painting career as a watercolour artist, painting landscape vistas. A chance side trip to Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park in southern Alberta served to change me forever. Like Egyptian hieroglyphics, the rock art petroglyphs (carved into the sandstone) and pictographs (painted images), are an historical record of the experiences of Indigenous peoples from a number of tribal groups that lived in that area. My connections with rock art around the world, created new inspiration for my paintings.
During this time of studying and working with rock art as the subject for my paintings, my own spirit was awakened by a powerful connection to this imagery. Many times the locale of rock art is also a place where dreaming and vision seeking have taken place over centuries. The areas I visited provided a connection to the unseen and powerful forces that my work endeavors to capture in my “medicine paintings.” As these connections deepened, I became involved with ceremony and study in the area of the Indigenous approach to healing and spirituality.