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Melissa Shaginoff: 2018 Toni Onley Artists' Project Selected Artist

Blue Trap Dreams, Melissa Shaginoff

Melissa Shaginoff
2018 Toni Onley Artists’ Project Selected Artist


For the twelfth year the Penticton Art Gallery has once again partnered with Island Mountain Arts and the Toni Onley Artist Project in Wells, B.C., to introduce the work of an amazing emerging artist to our community. For just over a week each year, 20 artists from across the country are selected to participate in an intensive self-directed studio program led by two senior artists who are hired to guide the program and act as mentors. This past summers mentors were Lisa Milroy of the Slade School in London, England and Jen Mann of Toronto. Both of these artists have enjoyed international recognition and have been at the forefront of contemporary art.

As part of this residency program, the two mentors are asked to consider each of the participating artists for this exhibition opportunity and over the course of the week-long program each of the mentors considerations the participants artist talk which introduces them and the group to their artistic practice along with each days one and one meeting and critiques and  the work they each of them creates over the course of the residency. It’s never an easy task and this past summer was no exception. One of the purposes of this exhibition opportunity is to give an artist a goal to work towards in the hope that it will help further the work undertaken in Wells and provide an emerging artist with some much needed exposure and critical engagement. After careful consideration, the mentors are asked to not only select one of the artists but to also provide some context for their selection and Lisa Milroy has contributed the following thoughts on work and the reasons behind their selection of this years artist Melissa Shaginoff.

“My fellow mentor Jen Mann and I were in firm enthusiastic agreement that TOAP participant Melissa Shaginoff would be marvellous as the recipient of the annual TOAP exhibition at the Penticton Art Gallery. Melissa brought a unique outlook and a very special energy to the TOAP residency. Her thoughtful, informative, highly enjoyable ‘Artist Talk’ introduced TOAP participants and members of the public to her work as an artist, her educational and professional trajectories, and her curatorial perspective as Curator of Contemporary Indigenous Art and Culture at Anchorage Museum through the lens of her Ahtna and Paiute heritage and engagement with Native American social and artistic communities. Melissa grew up in the small fishing town of Kenai on the southern coast of Alaska with her cousins who are Dena'ina, and is a member of the Udzisyu (caribou) and Cui Ui Ticutta (fish-eater) clans from Nay’dini’aa Na Kayax (Chickaloon Village). Melissa’s artistic practice explores questions of personal and collective memory, family and community, continuity, and female identity. The imagery in her paintings can trigger a range of associations, from female solidarity, empowerment and connectedness to a sense of entrapment, alienation, loss, alone-ness. I am particularly intrigued by Melissa’s focus on the motif of women’s hair. I am also interested in her work as a designer, which includes beadwork, jewellery and textiles. On the TOAP residency, I appreciated how Melissa opened up the potential of her paintings by developing a new approach to materiality, touch and gesture through a lively sense of experimentation. I have no doubt that Melissa will create a revelatory exhibition in Penticton.”