Purpose and Intention: Exploration of Creativity

Purpose and Intention: Exploration of Creativity

Leith Mahkewa, Indigenous Artist-in-Residence, Department of Visual Arts, Western University

With works from Anahí González, Shelley Elijah, Faye Summers, Samantha Doxtator, and Twyla Antone

May 30 – June 20, 2024
artLAB Gallery, London, Ontario

This exhibit is a culmination of Leith Mahkewa’s time as Indigenous Artist-in-Residence, in the Department of Visual Arts at Western University. Although the focal art piece of her residency was the production of a cradleboard adorned with beadwork, she also produced many beaded items, which are pictured in the exhibit.

While in residence Leith explored a variety of new art mediums: woodworking, linocut printing, leather handbag making, silversmithing and haute couture embroidery which add to her artistic repertoire and increase her creative skills.

Beadwork is Leith’s primary art medium of choice. Through this residency she followed a vision to create a new and innovative artwork while still conserving the original intent of the cradleboard. This was her first attempt at making a cradleboard and then adorning it with beadwork. The design and creation of the board itself is not a new concept, cradleboards have been used for centuries but Leith had never made one. The completion of this board and accompanying beadwork took approximately 7 months, a relatively short time compared to the 12 years she held this idea and waited for an opportunity to make her idea come to life. The inspiration for this project came from Leith’s personal experience using a cradleboard for her children and her desire to create one herself using beadwork as the main focal point. She promotes the use of the cradleboard and its value to the mother, baby and family.

One of the goals Leith had during her residency goes beyond the boundaries of UWO’s campus and Western’s Wampum Lodge to her community, Oneida Nation of the Thames. Leith’s intentions while at Western was to help increase the visibility and use of cradleboards by those within her community. The avenue that she chose was to encourage a group of women to explore their beadwork journey and to encourage them to bring the cradleboard home for themselves to use or for their families to see its utility and beauty.

The group gathered on campus and in Oneida, where they learned beading techniques, shared food, and comradery. All were gifted a cradleboard to bring home to their families. It’s important to note that beading for Leith is primarily done alone. However, the time spent creating and sharing with these four ladies motivated her to complete her own works and helped to foster the possibility of sharing future beadwork teachings. The beaded wraps for each cradleboard created by Faye Summers, Shelley Elijah, Twyla Antone and Samantha Doxtator are integral to this exhibit and a once in a lifetime experience which sustains the utility of cultural items.

Leith would like to acknowledge all those who mentored, encouraged and at times listened to her creative ramblings. The journey to this point was not done alone, there have been many people who helped to make this process enjoyable and a success. She recognizes the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Western Ontario for providing space for the promotion and growth of the Indigenous Artist-in-Residence program without which she would not have had the resources to work independently and create art as she sees it.

Yaw^/Nia:wen/Thank You
Leith Mahkewa

Image credits: Purpose and Intention: Exploration of Creativity, Installation Image. Photos: Dickson Bou, artLAB Gallery

artLAB Gallery
Department of Visual Arts
Western University
John Labatt Visual Arts Centre
London, ON N6A 5B7

Liza Eurich, MFA (she/her)
artLAB Gallery Manager
519.661.2111 ext. 86186

Gallery Hours
Monday – Friday: 12-5pm

The artLAB is accessible.

Social Media
@leithmahkewa | @westernuvisarts