Indigenous artist explores her heritage through River Bends and Totem Ends

Karen Goodfellow has used her art to explore her Indigenous ancestry by using various materials at her disposal

Growing up without her native tradition did not stop Karen Goodfellow from exploring her Indigenous heritage. 

So, she decided to take others on an exploratory journey with her through artwork.

A new exhibit will open doors for Pitt Meadows residents at Pitt Meadows Art Gallery (PMAG) titled River Bends and Totem Ends, a solo show produced by the artist, who has mixed ancestry.

In her 20s Goodfellow became curious to learn more and decided to find her Indigenous path. 

“My maternal grandparents were Indigenous and my paternal grandparents were Austrian. My maternal grandmother was Squamish and grandfather was Katzie First Nation,” Goodfellow said. 

A full-time certified therapist and organizational facilitator, Goodfellow has used her art to explore her ancestry. 

“It’s been interesting how I’m exploring my land-based roots being half settler and half First Nation. So, I use my art as a way of exploring my two different worlds. Yes, I have lived off-reserve but I’m still Indigenous.” 

Roots to the land

Titled ‘Seen Many Winters’ is a doll made from different materials by the artist/Photo Supplied

The exhibit, which will include mixed medium sculptures and paintings, has a theme revolving around nature, landscapes and the artist’s roots to the land. 

A landscape painting of a river end is her way of honouring the river. 

Assemblage pieces of a river made with rocks and stones and resin are her way of expressing what the river looks like throughout different seasons. 

“Most people paint rivers during the summer or spring when you can see the water and they’re pretty. But, I was inspired by the top-frozen Similkameen River when I was driving from Vancouver through Hope. 

Contemporary Totem Poles

Titled ‘Winter Medicine’, this stairwell bannister is the artists’ take on traditional totems/Photo Supplied

The other half of her exhibit is a modern take on traditional totems. 

Years of training are required to create totems. Goodfellow did not have that training. 

In this exhibit, she used stairwell bannisters and turned them into Spirit Totems. These totems are created with mixed found objects. 

“So, living in a modern world, I’ve got traditional Indigenous supplies on it alongside rusty, shiny, silver and more colonial objects. These totems are a contemporary take from somebody who has been assimilated,” she said.  

All artworks will be available for sale ranging from $125 to $1195. 

The exhibit begins September 18 and runs till October 31 at the Pitt Meadows Art Gallery

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