photo: credit: Tenille Campbell @Sweetmoonphoto
BIG Small Talk with Co-Conspirator: Holly Aubichon
by Sasha Kucas
BIG small talk is a chance to introduce people that Harbour Collective work with behind the scenes. Sasha Kucas zooms with Holly Aubichon for a fun conversation of BIG small talk. Holly is an inspiring coffee-drinking bike-riding lover of painting who juggles writing, painting, art curation, and full-time work at Sâkêwêwak. Aubichon has participated in and partnered with Harbour programming and continues to be a valued Harbour co-conspirator. While the sun and work might force this Queen out of bed, we laugh over coffee as Aubichon reflects on community and connection.
Tell me about your role at Harbour.
My role with the Harbour Collective exists in a few ways. It started with the AI residency as an artist on a topic I had not touched on before. That was exciting ground to start on. I was not presenting myself as who I already am. My interest in Harbour continues to spark with the AI-A-THON and databases. So far, my involvement and connection with Harbour have been through a very exploratory access. Harbour supports my writing, a new avenue of my practice, and has mainly been the platform for me to share and discuss my writing and aids the editorial side of things. So far, my involvement has not been related to my painting practice, but it has been a good connection while I am pretty occupied with full-time employment. It helps get all those ideas out without having my inner critic there as much as it is newer- if that makes sense.
Can you talk a bit about our recent film festival there?
DOCKED came to Regina. It was exciting to have an all-Indigenous Film Festival and screenings. I spoke as the co-interviewer during the artist talk with Dianne Ouellette and Simon Moccasin, which was lovely. Sâkêwêwak participated, supporting local artists by giving an access point to film in a small and tangible way through the smartphone. The connection between Harbour and Sâkêwêwak is exciting. We got to build community relationships in Regina with artists ready to be screened and engage in art. Participants had their facilitation and support as artists coming here, and I think that continues to build on connection and what Harbour is doing.
How do you approach your art practice?
I spend a lot of time outside of creating work with my hands. A community-central or community-engaged practice is how I get inspired. Visiting with my relatives or within archives online is where I find information about people that supports the visual. The painting process is the meaningful part and the hardest to display. My work exists and starts in community- with painting, writing, and curation.
What inspires or motivates you?
Community and the ability to relate in an art gallery- my motivation is to have art in galleries that feel relatable to Indigenous folk in a way that feels more than Indigenous art styles of the past but hybridized with an urban Indigenous lens. I am motivated by what happens in the room where art is on the wall; when you hear someone say, ‘Oh! I had that couch in my Kokum’s basement.’ To have that happen in an art gallery where discussions of criticism and merit occur is not entirely juxtaposing but takes up space in ways that folks not often reached feel familiar with. In my first out-of-province group show exhibition in Edmonton, a photo was taken of an older person, probably in their 70s or 80s, pointing to a figure in my painting. Posted on Instagram, that was the first time people outside the province, not just my relatives and people in Saskatchewan, interacted and connected with my painting. The feeling behind seeing that, the representation and story shared with them, is the driving force I find exciting and healing.
What are you working on right now?
I am working on a new series of works that fit with my most meaningful piece, Modern Medicine. Modern Medicine captures my core painting or document I use in lieu of words to describe where I am coming from. It is my most complex painting because of the feelings I processed and the decision-making around how to depict my non-living relatives. I imagine a series that relates to each other, a developmental story where each painting will reveal more context to the previous. The piece I am working on right now is like a “cheat sheet” for the people in those images. These paintings will break down stories of objects, stories told about them from other relatives and show how photographs are used in my practice, simulating sources and adding layers of storytelling to the background that compare relatives to me.
What do you value most in life?
I value my family most in life, including my chosen family. I prioritize my goals and time spent with them by helping them heal or help them through things. I dream one day of living on the land with those people; it is what I value the most.
If you could relive a moment in your life, what would it be?
I have a cheeky one around COVID when I received the BMO Art Award for the Saskatchewan recipient. I would relive that in a non-COVID timeline so that I could go to Toronto, which is what usually happens, and have a show and things like that!.
When I think about reliving something, I think about childhood memories or trips I took as a child. I would love to relive my BC trip with family because it was chaotic and wild, but I was 12. I was not thinking about the same things I think about today. So many stories I would like to have remembered to depict in paintings, now are lost.
What animal do you identify with?
Not in an Indigenous way, but a bear is what I would associate with. Bears have an ideal setup: hibernation for a good chunk of time, climbing trees, and spending time with family. They are big, soft, scary, and higher on the food chain. If I could personify the bear spirit, it would not necessarily be slow moving, but their day-to-day pace is the characteristic that I resonate with, and being cozy.
What is your karaoke go-to song?
I love Karaoke! I love being weird about it. I like to do duos. We Belong by Pat Benatar is first; when I get more confident and ready to belt, I sing Jolene by Dolly Parton.
Holly spends time with friends playing Splendor, eats Vietnamese food at Quan Ngon, and plays Animal Crossing after a long day. Always avoiding Wascana lake in Regina during the spring but loves to bike around there when the annual fish defrost happens, Holly dreams of a garden filled with gnomes. One day, Holly, one day.
Holly Aubichon investigates topics of urban Indigeneity and how ancestral knowledge reaches urban Indigenous people through memories, land, and body. Her practice includes painting, writing and curation. She identifies as Métis, Cree from her Paternal side, and Ukrainian, Irish, and Scottish ancestry from her Maternal side. Aubichon was born and raised in Regina, Saskatchewan. Her Indigenous relations come from Green Lake, Meadow Lake and Lestock, SK. Aubichon’s practice is laboriously reliant on retracing familial memories and connections. She uses painting as a way to foster personal healing. Since July 1, 2021 as an extension of her practice, she has been in a traditional Indigenous tattoo mentorship with Stacey Fayant. Tattooing as a practice for Aubichon acknowledges the memories that familial bodies carry, and develops community care focusing on healing and processing grief alongside the revivalists of traditional tattoo methods. She graduated from the University of Regina in 2021 with a BFA, minoring in Indigenous Art History. Aubichon was the Saskatchewan recipient of the 2021 BMO 1st Art! Award. Aubichon is the current Artistic Director for Sâkêwêwak Artists’ Collective Inc.