Jane Ash Poitras’ painting of The Contrary, 1999

The Contrary, 1999, collage of First Nations imagery

Jane Ash Poitras (1951-)

1999.2
© McMichael Canadian Art Collection. All Rights Reserved.


 "Today, more and more Indians are becoming successful warriors and healers, storytellers and teachers in mainstream society, applying historical values to contemporary situations, proud and certain of their identity, successfully maintaining their culture as adapted to their new situation, and relying on the same spiritual resources that guided their ancestors."1

 "Today, more and more Indians are becoming successful warriors and healers, storytellers and teachers in mainstream society, applying historical values to contemporary situations, proud and certain of their identity, successfully maintaining their culture as adapted to their new situation, and relying on the same spiritual resources that guided their ancestors."1

 1Jane Ash Poitras, “Jane Ash Poitras,” in Indigena: Contemporary Native Perspectives, Gerald McMaster and Lee-Ann Martin, eds. Copyright © (Hull: Canadian Museum of Civilization, Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1992) 167.


© 1992, Canadian Museum of Civilization, Douglas & McIntyre. All rights reserved

Jane Ash Poitras states: "you can take your art and create something good, and that becomes your bow and arrow." Poitras uses her art to comment on First Nations’ issues both past and present. The theme of First Nations' identity, explored through personal affairs, political struggles, and historical events form the basis of her art. A two- dimensional mixed-media collage, The Contrary is a composite of photographs, magazine clippings, and painted objects or symbols that is both celebratory of her people’s culture and reactive to Western oppression. Like her other works, The Contrary seeks to reveal significant cultural elements and icons that can liberate and spiritually strengthen First Nations’ communities. The artist states, "Only through spiritual renewal can we find out who we really are and acquire the wisdom to eliminate the influences that bring tragedy upon us and destroy us."1

In the latter half of the twentieth century, First Nations artists in Canada have become an increasingly visible part of the Canadian cultural presence. This was brought about by an increase in social actions taken by the First Nation Read More

Jane Ash Poitras states: "you can take your art and create something good, and that becomes your bow and arrow." Poitras uses her art to comment on First Nations’ issues both past and present. The theme of First Nations' identity, explored through personal affairs, political struggles, and historical events form the basis of her art. A two- dimensional mixed-media collage, The Contrary is a composite of photographs, magazine clippings, and painted objects or symbols that is both celebratory of her people’s culture and reactive to Western oppression. Like her other works, The Contrary seeks to reveal significant cultural elements and icons that can liberate and spiritually strengthen First Nations’ communities. The artist states, "Only through spiritual renewal can we find out who we really are and acquire the wisdom to eliminate the influences that bring tragedy upon us and destroy us."1

In the latter half of the twentieth century, First Nations artists in Canada have become an increasingly visible part of the Canadian cultural presence. This was brought about by an increase in social actions taken by the First Nations people themselves. The ongoing efforts of committed individuals, within the First Nations art community, which were directed at the public art museum and gallery system finally resulted in a shift in attitude. By the 1980s First Nations art was being exhibited in public art galleries, finally separating it from the stigma of being considered merely as ethnological artifacts.

1 Jane Ash Poitras, “Jane Ash Poitras,” in Indigena: Contemporary Native Perspectives, Gerald McMaster and Lee-Ann Martin, eds. Copyright © (Hull: Canadian Museum of Civilization, Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1992) 167.


© 1992, Canadian Museum of Civilization, Douglas & McIntyre; © 2006, MCAC. All Rights Reserved.

Photo of Jane Ash Poitras

Photo of Jane Ash Poitras

Thomas King

© Canadian Art. All Rights Reserved.


Jane Ash Poitras was born in the northern Alberta community of Fort Chipewyan, and grew up in Edmonton. Poitras received a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Printmaking from the University of Alberta in 1983 and a Master of Fine Arts degree, also in Printmaking, from Columbia University, New York in 1985. Poitras has succeeded in establishing an international reputation. Her enormous contributions in giving voice to First Nations issues and her visual presentation of these ideas have formed a legacy in Alberta and in Canada.

Jane Ash Poitras was born in the northern Alberta community of Fort Chipewyan, and grew up in Edmonton. Poitras received a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Printmaking from the University of Alberta in 1983 and a Master of Fine Arts degree, also in Printmaking, from Columbia University, New York in 1985. Poitras has succeeded in establishing an international reputation. Her enormous contributions in giving voice to First Nations issues and her visual presentation of these ideas have formed a legacy in Alberta and in Canada.



© The Glenbow Museum. All Rights Reserved.

Jane Ash Poitras comments about her status and attitude as a First Nations artist. From: "The Other Side of the Picture", 1998

"I don't know what their issue is, and I can't talk for them, I can only talk for myself. And for myself, I have always had dealers call me. I could select any dealer in this country right now, any dealer would love to have me. My attitude - I don't have a negative attitude when it comes like that. I was born a great artist, I am a great artist, I see myself as a great artist, I tell people that; they look and say 'yes you are'. It's what I project, what I radiate. The thing is that, that's the history. We know the history. What we should be worried about now is what are we going to do for tomorrow, what are we going to do today to change that. I don't really care about yesterday, I'm going to do something about it today."

National Film Board of Canada

© 1998, Courtesy National Film Board of Canada . All Rights Reserved.


Learning Objectives

Jane Ash Poitras The Contrary Learning Object is designed for students and educators to meet the following objectives:

  • Learn about the artist and her contribution to Canadian art;
  • Explore themes in Canadian history and cultural heritage;
  • Establish links between art and cultural identity;
  • Learn about a type of Canadian art - First Nations art, and demonstrate knowledge in the art of other cultures, nations, and groups;
  • Identify, research, and describe visual characteristics and themes found in Canadian and other cultures’ art;
  • Demonstrate an understanding that the function of art may vary from culture to culture;
  • Discuss and analyze a work of art using principles of design and other artistic terminology, and classify a work of art by period, style, and subject matter; and
  • Identify the skills required in various visual arts and art-related careers.

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