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installation, First Nations woman artist, mixed media, found materials,wooden cabinet, cotton flour sack,frying pan,bannock, candy,Christmas tree, memory, humour, playful, childhood,word-play, Inuit, family,community, Northern Quebec,narrative, bannock, ceremony, feasting,multi-media, cultural heritage, Christmas, furniture, cooking utensils, Northern Canada, place, tree-line, caribou antler, land, social, political

In her art works, Orr often incorporates traditional  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: Village of First Nations: Canada’s First Nations: Wikipedia:   art-making practices such as beadwork and quillwork. She will merge these practices with  foundAn image, material, or object, not originally intended as a work of art, that is obtained, selected, and exhibited by an artist, often without being altered in any way. The cubists, dadaists, and surrealists originated the use of found images / materials / objects. Although it can be either a natural or manufactured image / material / object, the term readymade refers only to those which were manufactured. Also known in the French, objet trouvé. (  materials and  oilSlow-drying paint made when pigments are mixed with an oil, linseed oil being most traditional. The oil dries with a hard film, and the brightness of the colours is protected. Oil paints are usually opaque and traditionally used on canvas. They can have a matte, semi-gloss, or glossy finish. To look at examples of works in oil paints, see the articles under the names of every period from the Renaissance onward. (  or  acrylicSynthetic paints, with pigments dispersed in a synthetic vehicle made from polymerized acrylic acid esters, the most important of which is polymethyl methacrylate. First used by artists in the late 1940s, their use has come to rival that of oil paints because of their versatility. They can be used on nearly any surface, in transparent washes or heavy impasto, with matte, semi-gloss, or glossy finishes. Acrylic paints dry quickly, do not yellow, are easily removed with mineral spirits or turpentine, and can clean up with soap and water.(  paint.

Orr has used a  varietyPrinciple of design concerned with difference or contrasts.  of media, art forms and techniques to establish her reputation as a painter,  sculptorA three-dimensional work of art, or the art of making it. Such works may be carved, modeled, constructed, or cast. Sculptures can also be described as assemblage, in the round, and relief, and made in a huge variety of media. A sculptor is one who creates sculptures. (  and  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.  artist. In some of her works, she delivers a strong political or social message, while in others she is more reflective and playful while presenting memories of childhood, family and community. Her sense of humour permeates much of her art practice and she will occasionally use interesting word plays, such as the words ‘Bake Cree’ that appear in the installation Eve, seen here.

In the installation Eve, Orr references a childhood memory of a Christmas celebration in northern Quebec with her  InuitInuit means “the people” in Inukititut, the language of the people of northern Canada. Go to for further information.  relatives. Many of Orr’s childhood years were spent south of the tree line in Chisasibi, Quebec and she was accustomed to having a Christmas tree. This Christmas, as she flew to Povungnituk, Quebec, she noticed there were no longer any trees on the barren northern landscape and she wondered what kind of a Christmas tree they would have. Her question was answered when she saw the decorated caribou antlers.

Orr gives further insights into her inspiration for this work by saying,

Thus I set up the installation, Eve, in remembrance of the simplicities of Christmas, the subtle evenings in the North, stories of earlier years, and family gatherings, and so forth.  The bannock is like cake and is made at every celebration, ceremony and gathering where feasting is a tradition.  The bowl of candy reminds me of the stories my mother shared where Christmas was one of the few times they got to eat candy and oranges.  The flour bags are from a baker called "Bake-Cree" and they serve as stockings.  Flour bags were also useful for many things including, in some cases, clothing.  The dresser represents the piece of furniture that can be found in any part of the house and somehow just seems to fit in. (Orr 1998)

additional resources Assemblage - Sheila Orr’s Eve
Duration: 1:09 min
Size: 4691kb
Things to Think About
  • Many individuals like to decorate their homes. The objects they select can say a lot about who they are and what is important to them. What could the selection of objects shown here tell us about this particular woman and her culture? Is celebration important to her?  What objects would you select to tell a story about you and your sense of identity? 
  • The antlers in the artwork are from nature and they are adorned with Christmas decorations. What could they symbolize in the Christmas tradition? Could the title Eve refer to an evening? In what ways might this artwork be a crossing over of two cultures?
  • Discuss indulgence and luxury as it relates to Christmas and society. What are your traditions? What special foods do you enjoy over the holidays? Are they similar to those presented in Orr’s work? Is Orr’s installation based on memory?
Studio Activity References

Anderson, Jack.  ‘Orr’s Works Ask Questions About Who We Are.’  The Regina Leader Post, Sept 30, 2000.

Author unknown.  ‘Sheila Orr.’  Common Weal, undated.  Retrieved from the Internet on August 18, 2008 from:

Author unknown.  ‘Sheila Orr,’  Cree Culture, undated.  Retrieved from the Internet on August 18, 2008 from:

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