On the Wings of a Butterfly: Discussing the Work of Mike MacDonald, Wild Pollinators, Ecology and Art

Presented by MSVU Art Gallery and Dalhousie Art Gallery

Join MSVU Art Gallery Director, Laura Ritchie, in conversation around the work of late Mi'kmaq artist Mike MacDonald (1941-2006).

Note: This conversation was recorded, stay tuned for a link to watch!

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A Queer Nova Scotian media artist, MacDonald is remembered in part for his environmental work planting pollinator gardens across Canada. His 1994 butterfly garden on the campus at Mount Saint Vincent University in K'jipuktuk (Halifax) serves as a point of connection between artists and curators exploring ecology and art today: Lindsay Dobbin, Frances Dorsey, Robin Metcalfe, Lisa Myers, and Michelle Sylliboy.

Lindsay Dawn Dobbin is a Kanien'kehá:ka (Mohawk) - Acadian - Irish water protector, artist, musician, curator and educator who lives and works in Mi'kma'ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of Lnu’k (Mi’kmaq). Dobbin was born in and belongs to the Kennebecasis River Valley (from the Mi'kmaq word Kenepekachiachk, meaning "little long bay place"), a tributary of the Wolastoq ("beautiful river"), in the traditional territory of the Wəlastəkwiyik and Mi’kmaq. Dobbin's relational and place-responsive practice includes music, sound art, performance, sculpture, installation, social practices and writing, and is invested in Indigenous epistemologies and cultural practices, such as drumming.

Frances Dorsey is an artist, long-time gardener and recently retired NSCAD faculty member. She studies replanting to make gardens more hospitable to pollinators and others, appreciating the linkages and reciprocities between us all as exemplified by the gardens created by Mike MacDonald. She is curator and participating artist in the exhibition Plant Kingdom pending at the Dalhousie University Art Gallery, (October 2021). Projects include a collaboration between Ursula Johnson and Lisa Myers, and work by Cecil Day, David Gowman, Anna Heywood-Jones, Steve Higgins and Sharon Kallis and will include in-gallery as well as in-community artwork and events.

Robin Metcalfe is a curator, writer, Queer activist and community historian of Acadian and Newfoundland heritage. He is Director/Curator of a university art gallery in K’jipuktuk/Halifax and was previously Curator of Contemporary Art at Museum London. He worked for many years as an independent curator, critic, writer, editor and broadcaster. Recent exhibitions include Mi’kwite’tmn (Do You Remember) with Mi’kmaw artist Ursula Johnson (touring 2014-2018) and Camp Fires: The Queer Baroque of Léopold L Foulem, Paul Mathieu, Richard Milette (2014-15). Robin’s work explores diasporic, post-colonial and Queer identities; gender and the body; and the liminal spaces between discourses.

Lisa Myers is an independent curator, artist and Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change at York University. She is currently co-leading an interdisciplinary research project with ecologist Dr Sheila Colla considering wild pollinators, ecology, and art, wherein Myers has focused on the gardens by the late Mi’kmaq artist Mike MacDonald. Myers is working towards a retrospective of MacDonald’s artwork to open at the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery in the summer of 2022. She has an MFA in Criticism and Curatorial practice from OCAD University, is Port Severn based and is a member of Beausoleil First Nation.

Interdisciplinary artist and author Michelle Sylliboy (Mi’kmaq/L’nu) was born in Boston, Massachusetts and raised on her traditional L'nuk territory in We'koqmaq, Cape Breton. Michelle completed a BFA at Emily Carr University of Art + Design, and a Masters in Education at Simon Fraser University, where she is currently a PhD candidate in the Philosophy of Education program, working to reclaim her original written komqwej’wikasikl language. Her collection of photography and L’nuk hieroglyphic poetry, Kiskajeyi—I Am Ready, was published by Rebel Mountain Press in 2019. For Nocturne 2020, Michelle has created a Komqwejwi'kasikl (Mi’kmaq hieroglyphic) poem that connects to Mike MacDonald’s work.

With support from Canada Council for the Arts, Halifax Regional Municipality