Saskatoon artist Wally Dion is featured in a solo exhibition showcasing portraits from his Red Worker series and his new Starblankets. Dion uses the techniques of social realism to discuss First Nations class struggles in modern Saskatchewan life.
Dion’s Red Worker series is comprised of several monumental portraits depicting Aboriginal people in the workforce. These larger-than-life portraits are composed of multiple panels, a technique that draws attention to society’s imposition of grid-like systems or categorizations, such as the pattern of land colonization.
It is from this series that Dion’s labour intensive sculptural constructions evolved. Recycling first world waste, he has created Starblankets and Shields out of computer circuitry boards using patterns that call to mind traditional quilts and blankets. In particular, the iconic star patterns that appear reference plains First Nations designs. Playing with our concept of time and tradition, they stimulate discussion of how traditions are valued and interpreted within modern society. In their use of material and symbolism they allude to systems of connections and communication. The modern circuitry offers an updated symbol of longstanding social networks, while at the same time talking about empowerment through technology within First Nations communities.
Dion’s Shield Wall is constructed with the same circuitry boards as his Starblankets, but with an added layer of plexiglass similar to that used for riot shields. Composed of six star shields, spanning over three meters when placed side by side, the piece might appear, at first glance, menacing. Dion’s Shield Wall, however, is not meant to threaten the viewer but to symbolize a mobile force that calls upon and can encircle kin in a protective manner while resisting the mob of ignorance and intolerance. Dion’sShield Wall asserts social mobility and empowerment through technology, communication, knowledge, education and unity.
Wally Dion Biography
Born in Saskatoon in 1976, Wally Dion graduated high school from Nutana Collegiate and followed that with a BFA in the fall of 2004 from the University of Saskatchewan. He is a member of Yellow Quill First Nation (Salteaux). Wally has worked for many years with youth at risk (young offenders, kids in foster care and youth with mental health issues). Recently, he has ended work as an art teacher with the Saskatoon Community Youth Arts Program to pursue painting full time. He has maintained work as a commissioned portrait artist following graduation from university. He received two Saskatchewan Arts Board Aboriginal Bridging the Arts Grants in 2005 and 2006, a 2007 Career Development Grant from the Canada Council for the Arts and a 2007 Independent Artist Grant from the Saskatchewan Arts Board. Dion was recently included in the exhibition Honouring Tradition at the Glenbow Museum and his work can be found in the collections of the Canadian Museum of Civilization, Saskatchewan Arts Board and the Canada Council Art Bank.
Learn more about Wally Dion by visiting his website.