485 Selkirk Avenue (2)
Chandra is a single mother and student at the centre. She worked for close to 3 months on this Mural.
Location: N side bet. Powers & Andrews; rear; East Face
Occupant: U of M Faculty of Social Work; U of W Faculty of Education and Extended Learning
District: North End
Neighbourhood: William Whyte
Artist(s): Chandra Dexter
Chandra Dexter: "This painting took me two straight months working twelve hour days.
I tend to be far too detailed and everything has to be just perfect in order to satisfy me.
Often in the past I'd simply run out of time and not finish it. I had taken an art class with
a wonderful teacher, Angel Gagnon at Adult Ed. She had an art project for us where we
had to do artwork in the style of a certain famous artist that she introduced us to such as
Picasso, van Gogh, etc. I studied some of their art and I realized that I can't paint like
this. But one of the artists she showed us was Norval Morriseau.. I had never done
Native art but the style of art with the thick black outline, curves, points and very bright
colours that he uses is SO with what I do."
"So I came up with a sketch and she liked it, so I painted it. It was hanging up on a wall,
and this other art teacher who also owned an art gallery was very impressed with it. It
had always been his goal to have a Norval Morriseau, and he thought that this was as
close as he could get right now! I sold him my painting."
"I am a student here, and when I heard that they were looking for a Mural here and found
out what they wanted, I realized that I had little free time to design something and then I
thought of this earlier painting I had done which fit the bill perfectly. The Mural is
slightly different and gave me a chance to improve the mesh of colours in the piece."
"The Mural experience was great. I'd never done anything like this before. As I worked
on it, I would step back to check the part I had just done, but I don't think I ever stepped
back and looked at the whole thing until late in the project to see how enormous it was.
The canvas piece was only 10" x 10" whereas this was 11' x 11'."
"I did a basic outline on the wall first in June. I used a projector. My problem with the
rough stucco on this wall was trying to get my lines to look straight from a distance. The
outline didn't turn out perfectly and I would have to make small adjustments later as my
work proceeded. It wasn't perfectly symmetrical. In the late stages if some detail was a
tiny bit out, I came to realize that I just didn't have the time to make it perfect and I
"When I was working on the wall I was a bit worried at first that in this area that maybe
people might be offended by a white person doing a native piece of art. Later I realized
that day after day there were so many people going down that back lane that stopped to
talk to me- it didn't matter what skin colour I had. They had so much respect for what I
had done. Everyone had their own meanings and way of identifying with it- what it was
and what it meant."
"I researched Norval and the type of art he did, how he drew his animals and the styles he
used; but at the same time I wanted to make sure my painting was an original. He did
thunderbirds in his drawings, so I wanted my thunderbirds to be MY thunderbirds. I
found examples of most of the animals in Norval's style except for fish. I had no idea
how to draw fish in a native style. I found a magazine that had some other native artists'
rendition of fish so I took from that and interpreted it myself into a Norval style."
"This was done at a point in my life where I had just become a mother to a daughter and
my realization that we are all part of a bigger system of the world and that it all keeps
going on around you. For me, the centre of that universe at the moment is my daughter.
So there's me and my daughter in the centre. The circle with the split in the middle was
in many of Norval's paintings and represents the two sided of people- physical and
spiritual, and the spiritual connection between them- me and my daughter. Once you get
to the land you have trees and plants (2nd innermost circle). Going around that you have
all the animals- the animals in the air, in the water and on land. Outside the circle are
representations of night and day. I had never found any paintings that Norval had done
of night. I asked myself 'how would Norval Morriseau draw stars'. I don't think he
would have drawn something with a lot of sharp details, but instead I think we would
have drawn something very basic, like his animal outlines are very basic. This is my
interpretation of how he would have represented the stars as different sized circles, and
the sun. It's that whole circle of life idea, too, you know?"
"It was hot. I could only paint from 9 am to 3 pm when the daycare could look after my
baby. I got heat stroke, and it was a real adjustment getting used to working in the sun
for that long. At the end of the day, I was never so tired in my entire life."