MacEwan University unveils spectacular, northern Alberta–inspired installation by Fine Art alum
When Brenda Draney submitted her proposal to create an artwork installation for Allard Hall, she was thinking back to an important time in her life—leaving her small town to attend art school at MacEwan University.
“I attended alongside other students who, like myself, were coming from smaller communities, outside of Edmonton,” says Brenda, a Fine Art alum and notable Canadian artist who hails from Slave Lake. “For some, it marked a time of independence, the first time living away from their families. For all of us, it marked a time when we focused on our own careers and education.”
Years later, MacEwan University unveils Brenda’s work to the public.
“When I was a student, it felt daunting to be at MacEwan as much as it felt exciting and amazing,” Brenda said back in August 2015, when she was announced as the commissioned artist for the project. “I would think about my own home in northern Alberta and how I came from there, and how I was here, and I thought about that journey. That was the seed of the idea.”
“ When I was a student, it felt daunting to be at MacEwan as much as it felt exciting and amazing.” Brenda Draney
That seed soon sprouted more life. What began as a series of plein air paintings and a bronze outline of a northern trapline territory embedded in the atrium’s concrete floor, grew to include a larger-than-life, inverted trapper’s cabin that would hang from the ceiling.
“When I was a student myself, I was a bit afraid,” she recalls. “An education in studio arts felt like a leap of faith to me. I could not have known where my education might take me. So I looked to my own history, the people and the place I come from. That brought me strength and guidance. I would like to offer the students of MacEwan University such strength and support, as they embark on their own careers.”
The cabin is a sculptural element that hangs from a single cable from the windows in the atrium. Its design is loosely based on an iconic trapper’s cabin or tent—but not quite. “It’s not a cabin and it’s not a tent, but the idea was born of those symbols and imagery,” says Brenda. “Both are iconic images I’ve been using and thinking about in my practice.”
Brenda’s sister’s father-in-law, Stan Morton, inherited a trapline from his own father. Inspired by how a piece of territory can teach a person so much—about themselves and about the ever-changing land—Brenda made several trips with Stan to paint, take photos and learn about the territory. Brenda used a map of the territory to trace an outline on the atrium floor, adhering bronze inserts to the concrete in the formation of a single, enclosed line.
“This indication, this contour of a space where stories live and others call their home, is about history and legacy and remembering,” she explains. “The absence of anything within the outline gives newcomers some room to make use of imagination. The absence allows for overlapping territories and histories.”
During her visits to Stan Morton’s trapline, Brenda created a series of oil-on-canvas paintings. To ensure their longevity in a space that gets a lot of sunlight, the paintings are framed under non-reflective, UV-protected glass. The paintings can be found on the first floor of Allard Hall.
We acknowledge that the land on which we gather in Treaty Six Territory is the traditional gathering place for many Indigenous people. We honour and respect the history, languages, ceremonies and culture of the First Nations, Métis and Inuit who call this territory home.