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Aapaskaiyaawa (They are Dancing)
installation, woman artist,First Nations artist, memory, First Nations Heritage, minimalist objects, sculpture, reservation, dance,space, shape, spirits in their physical forms,family,community,sense of place, pattern,imagination, metaphysical, upbringing, form, home, place, spirit, human movement, suspended sculpture

In this installation, Heavyshield suspends twelve hooded forms of various sizes from the ceiling of the art gallery. They are randomly placed to suggest a family gathering or a community of all ages engaged in conversation.  While  minimalistMinimalism is a twentieth century art movement and style stressing the idea of reducing a work of art to the minimum number of colors, values, shapes, lines and textures. No attempt is made to represent or symbolize any other object or experience. It is sometimes called ABC art, minimal art, reductivism, and rejective art. (artlex.com)  in  shapeAn element of art, it is an enclosed space defined and determined by other art elements such as line, colour, value, and texture. In painting and drawing, shapes may take on the appearance of a solid three-dimensional object even though they are limited to two dimensions — length and width. This two-dimensional character of shape distinguishes it from form, which has depth as well as length and width. Examples of shapes include: circle, oval, and oblong; polygons such as triangle, square, rectangle, rhombus, trapezium, trapezoid, pentagon, hexagon, heptagon, octagon, nonagon, decagon, undecagon, dodecagon, etc.; and such other kinds of shapes as amorphous, biomorphous, and concretion. (Artlex.com)  and form, these folded  monochromaticColour scheme using one hue and all its tints and shades for a unifying effect.  yellow  canvasCommonly used as a support for oil or acrylic painting, canvas is a heavy woven fabric made of flax or cotton. Its surface is typically prepared for painting by priming with a ground. Linen — made of flax — is the standard canvas, very strong, sold by the roll and by smaller pieces. A less expensive alternative to linen is heavy cotton duck, though it is less acceptable (some find it unacceptable), cotton being less durable, because it's more prone to absorb dampness, and it's less receptive to grounds and size. For use in painting, a piece of canvas is stretched tightly by stapling or tacking it to a stretcher frame. A painting done on canvas and then cemented to a wall or panel is called marouflage. Canvas board is an inexpensive, commercially prepared cotton canvas which has been primed and glued to cardboard, suitable for students and amateurs who enjoy its portability. Also, a stretched canvas ready for painting, or a painting made on such fabric. Canvas is abbreviated c., and "oil on canvas" is abbreviated o/c.  (Artlex.com)  sculptures are  representationalTo stand for; symbolize. To depict or portray subjects a viewer may recognize as having a likeness; the opposite of abstraction. A representation is such a depiction. (Artlex.com)  of individuals wearing hooded garments. The top of the forms are pointed and conical reminiscent of an Aboriginal tepee. The  installationAn art work specially designed to fit in or to make use of a specific type of space. It usually consists of more than one element and relates to the space in which it is displayed.  is dramatically lit with a single light source, creating  many shadows on the ground and strong shadows in the ‘faces‘ of the forms.

start quoteWomen have to protect themselves from a lot more than men do. Sisters stands for the strength and power, and the empowerment in looking towards ourselves for protection.end quote-- Faye HeavyShield

Lee-Ann Martin states about this work, “Twelve suspended figures connote multiple ambiguities in a dance between land and sky, permanence and fragility, between past and future, life and death. Movement and  shadowDark value of a colour made by adding black.  impart vitality to the figures. For Heavyshield, ‘They dance… because they feel great about who they are, they are grateful to the maker, they are moved by the wind.’ Aboriginal peoples today understand that the land is intrinsic to their cultural fabric and to their ‘dance of life,’ in spite of the impact of over 500 years of European colonialism.” (Martin, 2004)

Aapaskaiyaawa (They are Dancing) is an art work that was shown in a number of exhibitions prior to being purchased by the MacKenzie Art Gallery. The work references memories of her family and community as Faye HeavyShield was growing up on the reserve. These people were influential in her upbringing and helped to shape HeavyShield into whom she is today. They are lingering in her memory, informing her thoughts and her actions and helping her to understand her place within the world. They are her heritage and a great influence upon her  conceptAn idea, thought, or notion conceived through mental activity. The words concept and conception are applied to mental formulations on a broad scale. (Artlex.com)  of home and her place within it. They exist as spirits and their physical forms have gone back to the land. But they remind her of who she is in simple ways... like the gentle breeze of human movement which animates the suspended sculptures as they are viewed.


additional resources Things to Think About
  • Why would Faye HeavyShield want to make the group of figures in Aapaskaiyaawa (They are Dancing) all different sizes? Why do you think they are dancing? Why would they be placed in a semi-circular shape? How do the shadows add to the work?
  • Do you think HeavyShield is blending the human and the metaphysical world? Is there a haunting feeling associated with this work?
Studio Activity
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Journal writing

Faye HeavyShield uses her journal writing as an aid to inform her practice.

  • Make a number of journal entries related to a particular topic.
  • Use the writing to clarify the direction of your work and to inform possible formats for the realization of the work.


Create an art work that is based on a memory of people who are, or were, important in your life.


Author unknown.  Artist talk announcement.  Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba, Brandon, Manitoba, October, 2005.  Retrieved from the Internet on March 25, 2009 from:  http://agsm.ca/articles73.html

Houle, Robert.  ‘Faye Heavyshield.’ In Land, Spirit, Power, exhibition catalogue.  The National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, 1992.

Lee-Ann Martin.  A History Lesson.  Exhibition catalogue.  Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, Toronto, Ontario, 2004.

Murphy, Mike.  ‘Intuition Before Order: A conversation with Faye Heavyshield.’  Artichoke, Vol. 5 No. 3, 1993.

Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning