First American Art Magazine No. 21, Winter 2018/19 - Page 67

QUINN SMALLBOY from painting is almost meditative—a sense of relaxation and a time to reflect. For example, one of my paintings, Gutway, represents land erosion in Northern Ontario. In the painting you can see a waterway passage that connects Moosonee and Moose Factory by boat. From stories told to me by my parents, this passage was much narrower back in time, when they were young. It makes you think that the surrounding area and landscape of Moose Factory is dotted by smaller islands. But with the water levels changing dramatically every year, most often rising high, the smaller islands are disappearing. It’s a scary thought. Even the weather changes dramatically each year. I remember growing up and having amazing winters with great snowfall. My favorite activity would be Ski-Doo rides up the river when the rivers froze over enough for vehicle travel between Moosonee and Moose Factory. Even our elders sense the dramatic change in the climate. I understand that your practice is grounded in drawing and painting but, all of a sudden, string appeared almost everywhere in your work. It’s become almost your signature. Why the turn to string? During a slide presentation in one of my early classes at the beginning of my BFA at Western University, I was amazed by the ways that the artist [in the presentation] used yarn. I couldn’t believe what a little piece of yarn could do aesthetically, politically, emotionally. The work was all white string or yarn. If I remember correctly, the work was simplistic and composed of a multitude of lines looping from one end of a wall and across to another wall. Anyway, the simplistic nature of the work certainly caught my attention. It was simplistic but not “simple.” above Drum Circle, 2017, metal plate, public art installation, Kagawong, Ontario. opposite Quinn Smallboy (Cree). All images courtesy of the artist. Soon after that, I started doing some research on string and yarn artists and I came across the work of the late American artist Fred Sandback, who WINTER 2018/19 | 65