Lisa Shepherd and Nathalie Bertin co-created the "Breathe." project in 2020.
With such a large collection of artistic masks being shared in their online community, potential buyers and galleries from around North America have started reaching out to Lisa and Nathalie. They invited submissions of masks from around the world to be part of a collection in a travelling exhibition. To read more about how this project started and to see a couple CBC articles about it, see this Projects web page.
As of July 2020, two venues have already confirmed to exhibit the 'Breathe.' collection: The first one is Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies (Banff, AB), Sept. 24, 2020 to Jan. 17, 2021. The other venue is Kanata Centre at Martin Luther University College (Waterloo, ON), April 2021 - June 2021.
NEW! See below for the three of Lisa's own masks that have been selected by the independent jury to be part of the 'Breathe.' exhibition.
Wahkohtowin Lisa Shepherd, 2020 Mixed media (Velveteen, glass beads, ribbon, hand-tied tassels, tin jingle, cotton “kohkôm” print lining)
I worked through so many thoughts as I stitched this mask. It was like untangling thread. Frustrating at times, but necessary in order to move forward with creating. Like many other artists I've read about, I took a good two weeks of being entirely unproductive at the start of this pandemic hitting our part of the world. Then, one day, I realized how much I was grieving normalcy. Had it really been only two weeks prior that I was sitting with students at a high school, all talking about spring break plans? How fast that changed! With naming the grief, my inspiration and desire to create came back again.
I also thought about our interconnectedness. To each other. To nature. Our family has been escaping to the forest when we can and making offerings to the water. It's a time of feeling very small but, with that, also a release of so much that we seem to carry every day. There is a strange comfort that also comes with loss of all sense of control. Okay, so here we are. Isolating, and at the same time realizing the deep need that we have for each other. For connection to each other and to all living beings.
Has anyone else noticed the sheer joy that a car ride brings? After a month of isolating, I have a better understanding of the perspective of my dogs. In a car ride, as we pass through our city that seems to have slowed down to pace of the small prairie town from my childhood, the colours seem brighter, the sounds more crisp, the air is clean and - oh, that sky! How could we have taken such everyday miracles for granted for so long? There is so much for us to feel grateful for. And yet - never has a beadwork project felt so full of paradox, in a time of fear, uncertainty, and loss.
We are heading into a long weekend. Our family will be staying home. We are going to take time to say our gratitudes. To Creator, to Mother Earth and to each other. COVID-19 has happened so fast and many that have come down sick have gone to hospital alone and passed on to the next world. What was left unsaid?
And so, I will try and keep open to all the vivid beauty of the world and try not to take even a single moment for granted. I will tell the people that are dear to me that I love them. I've been saying that a lot lately to every friend that I speak with on the phone or video chat, because I do. On this long weekend, I pray that others will embrace this opportunity to do the same.
Stay home. Be well.
Be Well 2020 Lisa Shepherd, 2020 Mixed media (Velveteen, glass beads, cotton “kohkôm” print lining)
When I visited the lands of my great grandmothers a few years ago, I learned about the beaded whimsies that the Haudenosaunee women created to sell to the tourists around Niagra Falls. My favourite pieces were the three dimensional canoes with "Fast Boat" beaded on their sides. I imagined they might have been designed with the idea of the tourists purchasing them to take home to their children. The whimsies often had the date and place beaded on them. As I turned over a whimsie in my hand, reading the place and date, I thought about the message through time that our Ancestors had left us. How they had marked their place in time.
As I created this mask, I thought about this place and time that we are in today. What story will our masks tell 100 years from now? A story not of self-preservation, but preservation of each other. That is my hope. When we wear a mask, it doesn't protect us from getting sick but reduces the risk of breathing out sickness onto others.
Everything changes this year. The air is more clear and the animals get a rest from so many people milling about, but at what cost? There is too much loss of life and suffering alone.
How will this time and place be remembered?
How Much? Lisa Shepherd, 2020 Mixed media (Smoke tanned buckskin, glass beads, tin jingles, cotton “kohkôm” print lining)
COVID-19 pandemic first shows itself locally with the emptying of stores. Only social media is well stocked, of images of empty shelves. Supply and demand brings opportunity for the ethically-devoid few who buy up pallets of hand sanitizer, N95 masks and other essential medical supplies to sell on Amazon at 400% margin. Healthcare and emergency workers are forced to reuse personal protective equipment and risk their lives to save our loved ones.
After two weeks of nothing – no sewing, no creating – I crack open my chest and begin to weed through the juxtaposition of all that is happening. Heart fully exposed.
Through all, the birds can be heard more clearly than before. The air is crisp and clean. No traffic sounds. There are sightings of animals where people no longer monopolize space. Bit by bit, the inspiration to create returns.
I wonder, when we get through this, will we be better than before? Will we have learned what is truly important? Is this hope?
I post my art mask. Private messages. Lacking introduction. Two words.
Check out the 'Breathe' FACEBOOK GROUP for more details, and to connect with this growing online community.