Faye HeavyShield is of the Kainai (Blood) Nation, which is a member nation of the Blackfoot Confederacy. She was born and raised on the Blood Reserve in Southern Alberta, where she grew up learning the Blackfoot language and experiencing her family’s traditional ways of life. This traditional Indigenous upbringing was mixed with the influences of attending a Catholic residential school and the Catholicism in her community. HeavyShield uses her memories and knowledge of her heritage and combines them with present day concepts to produce her highly acclaimed minimalist objects and installations. The land itself plays a large role in many of HeavyShield’s works, influencing her choice of materials as a theme in her artworks, and even as an active participant. She once recalled, “One of my earliest and strongest memories is that of my father skinning a deer… the beauty of the animal’s eyes, serene in death, the smell of blood, the crackle of fat as the hide was peeled away, and the great taste of the meal my mother cooked. This image and others I saw later in statues of Jesus on the cross, in the architecture of the old homes – tepee poles before the skin/canvas [covered them] and structures left over from the Sundance, in the bodies of the old. When I began my formal art training, these influences surfaced in the form of biomorphic images, skeletal armatures with vestiges of ‘flesh,’ using architectural and figurative language. Monochromatic, after the solitude and simplicity of the prairie. Sometimes building the surface up and then working back from there, peeling the layers.” (HeavyShield, 1992)
HeavyShield studied art at the Alberta College of Art and Design and at the University of Calgary, both in Calgary, Alberta. Her works have been exhibited widely and can be found in numerous collections.