“My chosen artwork, ‘A Valley Flower’ by Nicholas De Grandmaison, interested me immediately, as it was a young Indigenous woman from the prairies painted by a Russian man.
The ‘male gaze’ is prominent in art and frequently portrays women in a sexualized manner, however this painting stood out because it depicts what I interpret as sorrow. The title characterizes the woman as a delicate being, the initial ‘a’ separates her from the other ‘flowers’ – she is a single flower from the valley. The emotion in her facial features alludes to a deeper existence and understanding, which creates a melancholy mood in an otherwise cheerfully colored artwork.
After researching the background of the artist, it is clear that although he is considered ‘white’, he has an unwavering respect of Indigenous culture. He stated that it was a great honor to paint Indigenous individuals, and in return, the Indigenous peoples respected him as well and were willing subjects for each painting. The young woman’s long braids and traditional outfit frame the sadness in her expression, and Grandmaison skillfully gives us a glimpse into history with her outfit and hairstyle. Overall, this piece reminded me of myself, the lifelike emotion is striking and relatable, and makes me wonder what she could have been thinking while she was being painted. Who was she looking at past the edge of the canvas? And what is her story?
In summation, I love this piece because it is intriguing, and it attentively represents a young Indigenous woman in a moment of true emotion.”
Mia Ohki is a Métis-Japanese-Canadian artist, born in Connecticut, USA, and raised in Alberta, Canada. She now lives and works between Edmonton, AB, and Langley, BC. She primarily illustrates with black pen on white paper to convey her ideas, however she also uses many other visual art mediums, including sculpture and paint. Mia’s art is influenced by her background, with Japanese and Métis culture frequently intersecting in her work. Her business is called Mia Ohki Illustrations, and she recently completed her first solo art show titled “I Know What It Looks Like”.
Nicholas de Grandmaison
A Valley Flower, 1931
Oil on canvas
Art Gallery of Alberta Collection, gift of The Ernest E. Poole Foundation, 1975