Born and raised in Southern Ontario, Renée has a BFA from the University of Toronto and currently lives and creates in Prince Edward Island. After years of working to find her voice as an artist, Renée has developed a style that is uniquely hers. The stories told in each painting are inspired by Renée’s past and present day experiences intermingled with nature and local PEI landscapes. Underlying all of her work is an intense interest in mystical interconnection of the physical and non-physical realms.
I come from the community known as the Muskrat Métis located in the most southern tip of Ontario. Though we are not of the Red River Métis lineage, my family has several documented lines of heredity to Indigenous female ancestors in the area where both sides of my family have lived for over 400 years. For centuries my ancestors have passed down their French and Indigenous cultural practices and language. Though the Muskrat Métis never officially formed a nation the culture is imbedded in who we are. And even though cultural practices and language were banished and hidden for centuries, over the last several decades many community members including my parents worked hard to share histories, recount memories and build an active community that continues to learn and grow together to this day. For a more in depth glimpse at my life check out MY STORY.
I continue to be an active ally to the Indigenous community in my home province of Prince Edward Island and am conscious of not claiming Indigenous status or taking up Indigenous spaces or funds. I also do not market my work as Indigenous art. That said I’ve been told my style is reminiscent of contemporary Indigenous painting so it’s important to me that people understand that, at its core, my style is a product of who I am and all that I have experienced. The stories depicted are taken straight from events, moments or thoughts that I have personally experienced. And my style has developed over time from several influences including my Indigenous and French ancestry, my art education and career in animation, as well as, my spiritual devotion to deepening the connection to my parents and ancestors in the non-physical realm. It is all of these things that make up who I am as a person and in turn make up my voice as an artist.
People rarely dissect why they are who they are like I have over the last several years, but my love and devotion to the Indigenous community is very important to me and I needed to make sure that I wasn’t misrepresenting myself and worse, causing harm to those I love.
I have spent countless hours understanding the layers to the painting style I have created and I am confident that this style is uniquely mine. I am excited to share with you all of the beauty that has brought me to who I am as an artist today.
• Indigenous Beadwork and Stylization
As an homage to my Algonquin, Huron and Ojibway ancestors, I researched beadwork and imagery that could be found in my home area. Interestingly, since I was a kid, I would doodle vines and flowers so it was cool to see this has been a motif for a long time. My research of this work actually made me feel more comfortable with simplifying my imagery down to its essential elements but I do not use Indigenous patterns or imagery.
I couldn't find public domain images but you can see examples of historical Ojibway beadwork here.
• The Voyageur Sash
The rivers around Southern Ontario were busy trade routes used by the Voyageurs who were famous for their sashes woven from colourful European wool usually by Indigenous women. The lines of colour I use in my work are influenced by the sash. (this sash was woven by mother by hand)
• Romanesque Art
I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts and my very favourite genre of painting is from 12th century Europe known as Romanesque. Illuminated manuscripts often depicted stylized drapery, strange poses and use of symbols to tell stories. All of these elements can be seen in many of my paintings.
• Art Nouveau
The stylized imagery of Art Nouveau has also been an inspiration. I love the Charles Rennie Mackintosh roses and created my version of those in some of my paintings.
I was in the animation industry for a very long time as an editor and this kind of bold graphic art has definitely influenced my approach to painting. Though I still love the physical texture of paint and will never give that up!
• Nature with a specific focus on Prince Edward Island
Nature is my church. I revere everything about it. PEI is an especially magical land. Being able to see it through the eyes of my Mi’kmaq friends, I’ve come to understand it on an even deeper level. I love PEI landscapes and animals and they feature heavily in my work.
Symbolism in my art is very personal. I do research what certain animals and images might mean across a variety of different cultures and religions, but in the end, I tend to stick to my own interpretation of images to enhance the story I am telling. I do this especially if I have experienced something mystical. For example, I use the bridge image often to signify the path to what I call the non-physical realm. This is because after my mother passed, I was taking a walk on the sacred land of Wanuskewin and as I crossed a bridge, she spoke to me. This bridge has since morphed into paths and other signifiers but it was because of this one moment that I assigned that meaning to that image.
• Witchiness, Mysticism and Quantum Mechanics
My reverence for nature, a strong belief in plant devas and the law of attraction, and complete trust that there is a collective consciousness that holds our infinite potential, is packed into each painting I do. I don’t have much space for rules and protocols of organized religions though I am happy for those who get what they need spiritually however that may occur. I have always forged my own spiritual path and that is what you will see in my work.