First Nations Art: Isolation or Inspiration?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about isolation and what inspires creative ideas in artists. It started as contemplation of my own creative processes and what I need to get the juices flowing. (I am a longtime quilt artist working in a geographically isolated and financially disadvantaged region, but thriving creatively and able to access a broader range of ideas and markets through the internet. About 25 years ago I made the choice to return to my roots, leaving urban southwestern Ontario and financial security for a rural Nova Scotian home and underemployment with the financial stress that brings.)

Corinna Ray: Flying Owl with Moose Below - acrylic on canvas

As I worked and thought, I could not help but begin to think of how much more it takes  to be an artist in a “Fly-In” Northern Ontario First Nations community – what are the sacrifices made, what are the trade-offs, what are the victories in this way of life?

 I thought about how well I might understand the issues (and decided that although I might have an inkling – maybe a bit more understanding than an urban professional might have, I couldn’t come close to understanding), and also thought about the huge disruption that has taken place in the community of Sandy Lake over the last month as the entire population (except for 20 whose jobs were essential to protect the community) of around 2500 people were flown out to other settlements as far south as Arthur in agricultural mid central Ontario. The chaos and disruption must have been totally unimaginable, and the community is still returning to face the ongoing threat of more fires.

Corinna Ray: Owl acrylic on canvas

I know that despite my chosen isolation, I can choose any time I want to go to a large urban centre in my late model car and stay in a good hotel and shop ’til I drop, dine out, go to galleries and shows and visit friends. I do not have to book an expensive flight out to Winnipeg or Thunder Bay simply to visit family or shop for something other than basic food and clothing – which can only be flown in and is hence wildly expensive. I have the good fortune to have been an early adopter of IT and have the capability to list on on my own website items I have for sale;  have basic skills in search engine optimization and online marketing and an online presence that has existed for 10 years.  So indeed, my isolation is one of choice only and can be ended at any time with little cost, and can just as easily be resumed. What a luxury this is!

Corinna Ray: Moose acrylic on canvas

I want to remind all friends of RedKettle that the above three beautiful original paintings by Corinna Ray are offered on Mich’s site, along with this wonderful piece by Corinna’s father, Carl Ray. Corinna Ray is a lifetime resident of the community of Sandy Lake.

Carl Ray: Medecine Fox

Take a look at for additional details on the above paintings, and contact to make an offer to purchase.

And I’d like to remind you too that two of Corinna’s original acrylics on canvas: Bear Cub and Caribou are available for a limited time at very special prices here on RedKettle’s blog – you can contact me – or to make your offer.

Until next week then, enjoy what’s left of the summer and celebrate your way of life, whether rural or urban, isolated or in the thick of things! 

Janet and Mich




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