Angelique Merasty

About the Artist

Angelique Merasty was born in Beaver Lake, Manitoba in 1924 and died in 1996. When she was a young woman, her mother, Susan Ballantyne, taught her the art of birch bark biting and Merasty continued to practice until her teeth became too loose to continue. Originally her works were more traditional, like her mother’s, in their balance and geometric pattern, but as she matured as an artist her  imageryAn image is a picture, idea, or impression of a person, thing, or idea; or a mental picture of a person, thing, or idea. The word imagery refers to a group or body of related images. (Artlex.com)  changed and she created her own style. Lee-Ann Martin explains, “Later, she developed a highly personal style that included floral variations, as well as zoomorphic images such as insects, butterflies, hummingbirds, fish, rabbits, owls, ants and mice.” (Martin, 1999)

Birch bark bitings are a  traditionTradition is the passing along of a culture from generation to generation, especially orally. Or, a custom or set of customs handed down in this way. The idea of heritage is related to that of tradition. Any activity — as a pattern of celebration, ritual, or other behaviour, etc. — is traditional once it is a precedent influencing comparable activities in the future. (Artlex.com)  of the Woodland Cree, were developed hundreds of years ago and were usually made by  First NationsFirst Nations is a contemporary term referring to the Indian peoples of Canada, both status and non-status (definition from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada). To find out more about Canada’s First Nations, go to: Assembly of First Nations: http://www.afn.ca/ Village of First Nations: http://www.firstnations.com/ Canada’s First Nations: http://www.ucalgary.ca/applied_history/tutor/firstnations/ Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Nations   women as a form of entertainment or social activity at their gatherings. The women of each Woodland Cree family developed their own  styleA way of doing something. Use of materials, methods of working, design qualities and choice of subject matter reflect the style of the individual, culture, movement, or time period.  or look for their "bitings" and would often enter competitions to determine who could make the best patterns. They also used their "biting images" in designing their beadwork and quillwork. Each family group had its own unique patterns and these were sewn on clothing and incidentals for their members.

Few artists continue to make art using this technique, but it is being revived through the work of artists like Merasty. Elizabeth McLuhan states about Merasty’s influence on birch bark biting traditions, “More recently, through the work of Cree artist Angelique Merasty of Beaver Lake, Manitoba, bark biting has achieved the status and market of fine art. Merasty’s own technical virtuosity and visual repertoire have greatly amplified the traditional range of rudimentary geometric designs to include rich  curvilinearFormed or characterized by curving lines. Elements of late Gothic and Art Nouveau ornament are examples of curvilinear treatment of form. Also curvilineal. (Artlex.com)  floral, insect, animal and human figures.” (McLuhan, undated)  Through the diligence and training of artists like Merasty, this art form will hopefully continue for many years to come.

 


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