Quill art on display at the Maidstone Bicentennial Museum

Filed under: Headline,In Our Community |

by Sylene Argent

The artwork of Windsor-born artist Yvonne Morrisseau has been tucked away since she passed away in 1999. Now, 27 pieces of her work are on display in celebration of Heritage Week at the Maidstone Bicentennial Museum, and Curator Victoria Beaulieu said this is a display of quill artwork local residents will not want to miss.

During a special launch event last Friday afternoon, supporters gathered in the main hall of the Maidstone Bicentennial Museum to see the intricate display of Native American inspired quill art, which feature tufting-a type of artwork where the artists craft a design tediously pulling, stitching, and trimming fur.

Morrisseau was raised in Windsor in a Catholic family. She was inspired by the missionary work of her aunt, so when she was old enough, she began teaching on a reserve in Crane River, Manitoba.  She would eventually marry the son of one of the elders there.

Morrisseau learned the traditions of quilling, tanning, beading, and tufting. She studied and lived with Native elders as a resident of Thompson, Manitoba. For over two decades, she showed her work, hosted workshops on the artform, and gave interviews and wrote about her life and work.

“She had a deep respect of elders and their creative ways,” Beaulieu said of Morrisseau. “She was inspired by Native traditions and felt it was important to carry this on.”

Morrisseau had to face many difficulties in her life, Beaulieu said, including the loss of a child. “To get through the pain, she created a picture of a Native women holding up her child to the Creator and sun. Your heart goes out to it when you look at it.”

Some of the images captured in the display depict a white buffalo, a thunderbird, and various other wild life. Another art piece that stood out to Beaulieu included one that displays a red hand and a white hand, which she said is an important image. “It is a great message that should be sent.”

Beaulieu is excited to be able to host the display. She said it ties in well as the Museum’s youth group studies Native culture. She was especially excited to launch the exhibit to the community with Morrisseau’s Niece, Evelyn Marsh, who was proud to have her aunt’s work on display again.

“The Maidstone Museum has set aside some funding to purchase some of the exhibit,” Beaulieu said proudly. “We’re very happy about this. I’ve seen a lot of quill work in my years, but this is just fabulous work.”

During the launch ceremony, Senator Jim Turner of the of the Windsor Essex Kent Métis Community Council performed a smudging ceremony. He explained this traditional cleansing ceremony has participants wave their hands in smoke to cleanse their face, heart, and body with the smoke of burning herbs. This wards off negative energy.

The Maidstone Bicentennial Museum will be open from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. from Monday, February 19 to Friday, February 23, and will be open from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturday to accommodate those who would like to see the display as part of Heritage Week. The display will be available for viewing until April. Those interested in seeing the display are urged to visit www.maidstonemuseum.com to learn about hours after Heritage Week is over.

On Saturday, February 24, the Maidstone Museum will host a pasta dinner fundraiser at the Essex Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion (Branch 201). More information about this event is also available on the Maidstone Bicentennial Museum’s website.