it beats inside all who speak for those who can’t | Wood, Fabric, Sinew & Embroidery 6.5’ Height
“Each year on February 14th, Indigenous women across the country march to call attention to Canada’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW). I wanted to make a piece that responded to the movement. I marched in Orillia last year and realized that, for me, the symbolism and power stemmed from the hand drums and the women’s voices. One song in particular, the “Women’s Warrior Song” was created for MMIW and is awe inspiring to hear when 40-50 women are singing in unison. The sculpture, it beats inside all who speak for those that can’t is a scaled up version of the hand drum. The bandage-like sheath stretched across the drum is embroidered with the Women’s Warrior Song which I transposed to pattern. This sculpture pays tribute to the women who continue to fight and bring attention to the MMIW movement.” – Aylan Couchie
For this month’s artist feature we are sharing the beautiful work of our dear friend, Aylan Couchie. It’s always a pleasure to get to know an artist whose work you admire. To have a chance to meet the mind, so to speak, behind the talent. But even more so, it’s a rare treat to watch a friend pour her heart into her work, see it as the pieces come together and then marvel at her finished product. Like watching a story unfold.
Aylan is currently enrolled in her final year of the Fine Arts Advanced program at Georgian College with plans to continue on and complete her BFA. From Nipissing Reserve in North Bay, Ontario, her journey to become an artist began as early as 10 years old, when she remembers receiving her first sketchbook and charcoals from her dad.
AC: My father had been taught by T.C. Cummings, a Northern Ontario legend, and so passed on some techniques to get me started. From that day on I always ensured I had a sketchbook by my side, even if I went months without picking it up.
In talking about sketching, or drawing, she tells me that she gets “lost in the line”. I so admire people who get lost in the line. It’s a beautiful thing to happen upon, that moment when you catch someone in deep creative focus.
Rest Stop TQ | Mixed Media on Panel, 18”X18”
As she does with her colour palette, Aylan covers a lot of spectrums in her subject matter. She can go from soft to critical to socially powerful. It gives her work a sense of the unexpected; I’m always intrigued for what will be next. Her artwork includes painting, mixed media, works on paper, sculpture and installation. She has come to realize that her passion is strongest for sculpture and installation.
AC: My strongest works, the ones I’m soulfully engaged with, are the ones I’m able to express in 3D. At Georgian, I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside and learn from Niall Donaghy, the sculpture technician, whose own work I find riveting and stirring. Niall has been undoubtedly my strongest resource over the years, without him I would have never been able to see the works I’m most proud of come to fruition.
Sweat Lodge | Acrylic, plaster, nylon taffeta, light/mirrors, speaker/iPod, 86” diameter X 4’ height
One of those works she is most proud of is Sweat Lodge. An interactive piece, music piped through speakers in the “fire pit” activated mirrors that reflected the pattern of the music onto the tarp. She enjoyed watching people engage with the patterns that happened with the native drumming music.
Aggressive Assimilation | Wood, Steel & Found Object, 5’ Height
Canada’s dark residential schools history, while not experienced, the indignities endured by members of Aylan’s family live in her memories through stories they shared.
AC: A huge part of my life was spent growing up with my Grandfather, much of my installation and sculpture works last year were done as homage to my relationship with him. When he was younger he was sent to Garnier Residential School (Spanish, ON). There, he was unable to speak his own language, he was separated from his family and culture. He told me one story where he made an escape with his cousin, they rode the train all the way back home only to be taken right back again by an officer. My sculpture, Aggressive Assimilation, took inspiration from the steeple that stood atop of Garnier School. There’s a lot of blatant symbolism in this piece, from the yard sticks often used by faculty to punish, to the jail cell-like bars which were in essence, what the residential schools were.
My Name Was Number _ Series | Exhibition Installation view from “By the Dozen” SDVA Gallery
My Name Was 41: Pick But Don’t Eat the Strawberries | Indian Yellow Ink and Oil on Panel
My Name Was 51: I Didn’t Drink My Tea | Indian Yellow Ink and Oil on Panel
My name was 50: An Orange and Six Hard Candies | Indian Yellow Ink and Oil on Panel
AC: The My Name Was Number __ Series of paintings were narratives taken from stories of Nipissing elders who had attended residential school. A prevalent theme throughout each story was that their names were taken away and they were assigned numbers instead, in addition, food was constantly used as reward or punishment. Each painting represents one elder’s story and were painted on wooden panels stained with Indian Yellow ink.
She delves deep into subject matter that touches the hearts of many different people. Her devotion, both to women’s issues and basic human rights, is fierce. She speaks out, never wavers from her beliefs and pours this strong energy into producing moving pieces of artwork.
View her portfolio here.
Images via Aylan Couchie
Posted by Jane.