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The chosen one: Sheshatshiu artist’s painting purchased for provincial art bank

‘Kapempant (Airplane)’, an acrylic on canvas painting by Mary Ann Penashue, was recently purchased by The Rooms provincial museum for the provincial art bank. -COURTESY OF CHRISTINA PARKER GALLERY
‘Kapempant (Airplane)’, an acrylic on canvas painting by Mary Ann Penashue, was recently purchased by The Rooms provincial museum for the provincial art bank. -COURTESY OF CHRISTINA PARKER GALLERY - Contributed
SHESHATSHIU, N.L. —

A Sheshatshiu artist has one of her pieces chosen for the Provincial Art Bank at The Rooms provincial museum in St. John’s.

Mary Ann Penashue said it’s an honour to achieve this and she’s happy to represent her people and home through her art.

“I was surprised and happy that I was chosen,” she said. “I’m honoured. Art has been a part of my life since I was very young and I want to share it."

The art bank was created in 1984 and has purchased more than 3,000 creations from artists in the province to add to the collection. Artworks that are part of the collection may be exhibited at the museum and are also installed in government offices and public buildings across the province.

Penashue’s piece was an acrylic painting on canvas named ‘Kapempant (Airplane).’

Last year, a piece from Inuit artist Edmund Saunders, ‘Inuit Blues’, was purchased for the bank.

The purchased painting was part of an exhibition of Penashue’s work in St. John’s last year at the Christina Parker Gallery. The show, titled Uapen Innut (People From the Sunrise), featured six of her works.

She has another exhibition planned for next year and is the process of preparing for that.

The artist is pleased with her career and has worked hard to get to this point. Her husband, former MP Peter Penashue, bought some paints for her birthday when she was in her mid 30s, and it grew from there.

“That’s when I started painting but I had been an artist my whole life,” she said. “I used to find a little spot where there was sand and make drawings.”

Penashue was raised by her grandparents and grew up living on the land. She said it was difficult in those days to get her hands on things like art supplies or even pencils and she made do with what she could. She said it was a lot of hard, physical work in those days to get by, but everyone helped.

Her family always supported her, she said, and even encouraged her before she decided to make a career out of art.

“When I started having a family of my own, I was sketching and my grandfather was there watching me,” Penashue said. “He said. ‘one day you’re going to make a living out of this.’ I didn’t take him seriously but here I am.”

A big part of her work is helping showcase the Innu way of life and history. She said it’s a big part of who she is and she wants to help pass that on.

Penashue was named “Emerging Artist of the Year” by the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council in 2007 and in 2016 she graduated from the Ottawa School of Art Fine Art diploma program.

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