Art Gallery of Alberta

Brenda Draney shortlisted for 2016 Sobey Art Award


Written by Lynda Vang

Edmonton based artist Brenda Draney has been shortlisted as a finalist for the 2016 Sobey Art Award–Canada’s prestigious contemporary art prize given to Canadian artists 40 and under.

Originally from Sawridge First Nation, Brenda draws inspiration from her relationship between the two communities she calls home, Edmonton and Slave Lake. Brenda has exhibited her work in several exhibitions at the Art Gallery of Alberta including: Suspend (2013), 90×90: Celebrating Art in Alberta (2014) and most recently in Future Station: The 2015 Alberta Biennial of Contemporary Art in 2015. We recently caught up with Brenda to congratulate her on the nomination and to talk with her about being shortlisted for this distinguished award.

How do you feel being the first Edmontonian shortlisted?
I feel very grateful for this experience. I feel like this is something that I am learning from.

How important is the idea of a sense of place to you? How do you reflect this in your work?
For my practice, I mine personal history, so a sense of place is a big part of that. I think that being from a northern Alberta town is part of my work. Edmonton is for many of these towns “The City”. So I feel very connected to this city.

One of your current projects includes, Trapline, a public work of art for the new arts building at MacEwan University. Can you please tell us more about this work?
The idea for this project came first from a simple desire: I want to visit a trapline. I want to see the place and paint and learn about it. I want to hear the stories. I will create a series of large, landscape-based paintings. These paintings will reflect various landscapes throughout northern Alberta. On the floor of the atrium I will, in a manner of speaking, draw a line, in bronze, outlining the territory of the trapline, using a map. The line will be very low relief on the floor, and will extend through most of the perimeter of the atrium. The bronze will tarnish and wear with time. In other words, it will show its own history and the history of the university it occupies

Having been a student at MacEwan, do you feel a sense of coming full circle now that your work will be on display in the new building?
I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to create a public artwork for what I see as a new phase for the University, which will surely carry through all of the great qualities that I benefitted from as student there. It makes me proud.

What does being shortlisted for the Sobey Art Award mean to you?
To be shortlisted for this award is a quite an honour for me. What I hope for as an artist is a sort of call and response. When I think of the time and effort and thought from the nominator, from the jurors and the National Gallery of Canada in putting the exhibition together, I feel deeply grateful. It is really overwhelming.