Kenneth Lavallee, Skywalkers
Window installation; printed static vinyl
Kenneth Lavallee’s refined aesthetic and cultural influence can be seen throughout the cityscape of Winnipeg. His bold colours and sharp graphic patterns permeate the city with an intent to make visible Métis and indigenous visual languages from the traditional plains eight-point Star Blanket to the Métis jig. These traditional forms of communication and community engagement take on a new visual life throughout Winnipeg, but retain, in Lavallee’s care, a sentiment that leads to their original use value as expressions of care and sharing.
For STAGES, Lavallee will take over one of Winnipeg’s skywalks, using the windows as a site to apply a vivid pattern of graphic forms. Light will be a key element in this new artwork as it will transfer colour from surface to ground. The site of the skywalk which links Portage Place Mall and The Hudson’s Bay is pointed, referencing Lavallee’s youth as a place where he hung out and developed a consciousness of his indigenous identity and a sense of place. The site also encapsulates the economic and racialized history of the Mall – a metaphor for the city itself. Portage Place Mall was designed to be an upscale shopping centre in the 1980s but never fully achieved that intent. It quickly came to serve a low economic class, becoming, and still remaining, a common inner-city hangout and meeting spot for indigenous youth and people. Lavallee’s project is timely as the Mall has just been sold to a developer who, with little doubt, has plans for the site that will not server its current patrons.
Kenneth Lavallee is of Metis descent, living and working on Treaty 1 territory and birthplace of the Metis Nation. He attended the University of Manitoba, graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2008. In 2018 he produced The Square Dancers a permanent public as part of the Winnipeg Art Council’s Indigenous Artist’s Project at Air Canada Park in Winnipeg; he also installed his fifth iteration of The Star Blanket mural project on the exterior of the Helen Betty Osborne Building at the University of Winnipeg. Recently, Lavallee presented Man and Nature a solo show at the Kelowna Art Gallery and participated in the group exhibition Insurgence/Resurgence at the Winnipeg Art Gallery for which his five-story piece, Creation Story, was hung over the exterior façade of the WAG for 8 months in 2017. Kenneth is currently working on a large-scale public art project in Toronto, dedicated to a local Indigenous Elder, Dr. Lillian McGregor.
Location: The Winnipeg Sky Walk between Portage Place Mall and The Bay, 393 Portage Ave.
Hours: Mon-Wed 10 AM – 6 PM; Thu-Fri 10 AM – 9 PM; Saturday 10 AM – 6 PM; Sunday 12 PM – 5 PM
Additional information: Site can be accessed from Portage Place Mall or The Bay; site is wheel chair access from both locations; public washrooms near site.
Image caption: Kenneth Lavallee, Skywalkers, 2019
Images by Karen Asher