by Jerry Whitehead. Sponsored by Global TV. Located at Pacific Centre's
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Letís Dance: Jerry Whitehead
SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN POWWOW ISSUE 1998
v28 n03 p28
Over the years, Jerry Whitehead's artwork has gone through a number of
stages. The one thing that has remained constant throughout this
progression is his focus on powwows and powwow dancers.
Photo by Dennis Bruce
"Powwow dancers have been an ongoing theme in my work since I
began painting. Seeing the dancers as a child had a lasting impression.
The subject matter has been ideal for expressing a part of my culture as
well as accommodating changes in my work," says the artist from the
James Smith First Nation.
As a child in Saskatchewan, Whitehead says he was interested in art
like any of his friends. He says, "I used to draw as a kid. I used
to draw all the time." Unlike the average kid, he used almost any
source he could find for his drawings including the ashes that remained
from fires and the lead in the bullets his father used as a hunter.
In his early teen years, Whitehead moved on from drawings done with
pencils and lead to paintings. He believes that his interest in art
comes from his family. Whitehead remembers his grandmother working with
hides and says that his mother did beadwork and braided rugs.
His family supported his talents and allowed him to develop them.
"I was lucky to be encouraged along the way," he says.
In addition to familial encouragement and an abundance of natural
talent, Whitehead has sought out technical training. He obtained a
Bachelor of Arts in Indian Art from the Saskatchewan Indian Federated
College and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Nova Scotia College of Art
and Design in Halifax.
Upon completing his formal training, Whitehead began showing his work
in exhibitions across the country. In the eleven years since, he has had
numerous shows in Saskatchewan, Ontario, Nova Scotia and British
Columbia. His work has been commissioned by University Hospital in
Saskatoon and the Summer Pops Symphony at Cable Wharf in Halifax to name
Whitehead says that his style has changed over the years. "I
went through a lot of different stages," he says. In the beginning,
Whitehead did beadwork and attached the work to his paintings. He also
says that, for awhile, he used to wrinkle his canvas to give his
paintings a dimensional appearance.
But, as in his current work, powwow dancers and powwows remained an
integral theme. He currently produces abstract paintings that
demonstrate his fondness of vivid colours. This, he believes, was
learned from his mother and her brightly coloured, braided rugs. He says
that this current style "just developed" over- time.
"My work is a little tamer now," he says. "It's more
refined." He attributes part of this change to development over
time saying he took more risks when he first graduated from school. The
other part of the change can be attributed to the fact that he is now a
family man. As such, Whitehead says that he is incorporating family
themes into his work on a more frequent basis.
Whitehead is quick to shrug off labels for his work. He says that
many people try to define his style but he refuses to limit himself in
this way. He is always looking for new ways to adapt and change.
"Lately I've been putting letters, words, sayings in my
paintings," he says. "'Let's Dance' [the painting featured
on the cover] is about Mom in the middle, Dad and little girls; the
small family ready to dance all day all night among the others. 'Let's
Dance' is written in the painting."
Jerry Whitehead currently resides in Vancouver, British Columbia but
his work can be seen throughout western Canada. He has displays in
Saskatchewan at Artworks in Saskatoon and at the Wanuskewin Heritage
Park. For more information on Jerry Whitehead or his artwork call (604)
["Lets Dance" by Jerry Whitehead, on cover of Sask.