Jane Ash Poitras

About the Artist

Jane Ash Poitras was born in the remote northern Alberta community of Fort Chipewyan, Alberta, in 1951, and raised a Catholic by her adoptive German mother. Poitras began to recover her  CreeThe largest group of First Nations in Canada, and part of the Algonquian language family. See the Canadian Encyclopedia for more information: http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0002005  heritage and language as an adolescent. Reconnecting with her native ancestry was a seminal event, changing her perspective on how she defined herself in the world.

As a young girl Poitras developed a love of drawing, colouring, cutting and pasting that is evident in her later work. Despite her obvious artistic talent and a growing  collectionTo collect is to accumulate objects. A collection is an accumulation of objects. A collector is a person who makes a collection. (Artlex.com)  of paintings and collages, she was advised that it would be difficult to make a living as an artist. She attended the University of Alberta in Edmonton, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Microbiology, while taking art classes in the evening.  But Poitras says,

I always really wanted to go back to university and get a degree in fine arts. Friends and acquaintances who had seen my work encouraged me to put together a portfolio and submit it to the department of art and design. Within hours of doing so I was told that I’d been accepted, and I could pursue my first love. I’ve never looked back. (Miller, 2006)

After graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in  printmakingA print is a shape or mark made from a block or plate or other object that is covered with wet colour (usually ink) and then pressed onto a flat surface, such as paper or textile. Most prints can be produced over and over again by re-inking the printing block or plate. Printmaking can be done in many ways, including using an engraved block or stone, transfer paper, or a film negative. The making of fine prints is generally included in the graphic arts, while the work of artists whose designs are made to satisfy the needs of more commercial clients are included in graphic design. (Artlex.com)  from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta, Poitras earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in 1985 from Columbia University in New York City. Since then she has built an international reputation as a mixed-media artist, philosopher, writer and lecturer, cultivating a visual language that combines images and words to express the complexity of personal and collective histories. She describes her paintings and collages as a “reclamation process.”

Poitras’ works combine references from both European and First Nations art history, photography, painted imagery and text. This combination of material from different cultural sources directs us away from the question, "Where does this work come from?" but instead causes us to ask why we insist on attaching artwork to a particular place, time, or people.

Poitras’ focus on Aboriginal  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)  underscores her concern that  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   people re-connect with their cultural and spiritual roots. She has stated that, “Only through spiritual renewal can we find out who we really are, be empowered to achieve our potential and acquire the wisdom to eliminate the influences that bring tragedy upon us and destroy us.” (Newlands, 2007)

Poitras makes her home in Edmonton, Alberta.


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