Painted in homage to her late friend and mentor Yvonne McRae, Christi Belcourt’s The Conversation (2002) draws inspiration from the floral beadwork designs by Métis women from the early 1800s. Belcourt describes her painting practice as one that “has now developed to where entire floral patterns are created in ‘dots’ by dipping the end of a paintbrush or knitting needle into the paint and pressing it onto canvas.”
More than a simple replication of nineteenth-century beadwork designs however, Belcourt’s painting depict the living world of plant medicines that make up the interrelated eco-systems found in both the natural and urban environment. Amidst the many flower blossoms, tendrils and root systems depicted in her work, wildlife is shown living in tandem with the sacred and healing plants such as blueberries, tobacco and sweetgrass commonly found across Turtle Island (North America).
Ultimately the painting expresses Belcourt’s admiration for her late friend. Belcourt writes,
“Yvonne was the kind of woman who when you were in her presence you felt instantly at ease. She had a way of bringing out the best in you. Everyone who knew her would enjoy the most wonderful and interesting conversations with her during visits that would last for hours and hours.”
Originally published in The Walleye – MAY 2017
By Nadia Kurd, Curator, Thunder Bay Art Gallery