Exhibition of Buffy Sainte-Marie’s digital art in Winnipeg shows different side of iconic musician

January 12, 2022
Exhibition of Buffy Sainte-Marie's digital art in Winnipeg shows different side of iconic musician

Most people know Buffy Sainte-Marie thanks to her decades-long and groundbreaking musical career or her work in activism and education.

But a new exhibition at a Winnipeg art gallery displays a lesser-known side of the Canadian icon by highlighting her innovative digital artwork.

Buffy Sainte-Marie: Pathfinder, an exhibition at the Urban Shaman gallery in the city’s Exchange District, presents 16 of her digital paintings, as well as never-before-seen sketches, artifacts and behind-the-scenes photos.

Curator Natasha Lowenthal thinks the exhibition will be enjoyed by Sainte-Marie’s fans, as well as those who are not as familiar with her work.

The collection is an opportunity “for everyone to really understand [Buffy’s] role in the entire arts and cultures scene,” says Lowenthal.

While the artwork in the exhibit cannot be taken out of context from Sainte-Marie’s music, activism, and writing, the paintings highlight “a different voice” from the artist, Lowenthal says.

“There’s an entirely new facet of understanding that you come to when you look at an artist’s visual art,” she said in a phone interview with CBC News.

“Nothing is departmentalized with [Buffy]. Everything is interconnected, and that’s a very conscious thing for her.”

Sainte-Marie began working on the paintings when home computers, like this early Macintosh, were in their infancy. (Robert Snowbird)

Pathfinder provides a unique insight into Sainte-Marie’s creative process and represents the most comprehensive survey of her digital paintings to date, according to an online description of the exhibit.

While digital art is now an established genre, Sainte-Marie began working on the digital paintings before “using a computer for art was even a concept yet,” said Lowenthal.

“She had to create these beautiful paintings one pixel at a time. She was really innovative in how she used all of the extra technology as well, like she was scanning in images, and she was working with a Macintosh [computer] that was literally the first model,” she said.

“In a day when we have presets and filters and a multitude of tools, [Buffy] had the opposite.”

The exhibition, presented in partnership with the Winnipeg gallery Ace Art Inc. and Paquin Entertainment Group, opened at Urban Shaman on Dec. 17 and is scheduled to run until March 5.

However, after its opening, the gallery temporarily closed its doors to the public in response to rising COVID-19 numbers and public health orders. A virtual gallery is in the works and will soon be available on its website, Urban Shaman says.

The exhibition will be travelling across North America at the very least, and hopefully the world in the coming years, Lowenthal said.

“It’s a new window into the life of somebody who’s really an authentic artist, who really looks at the arts in a holistic way, and who is always finding new ways to reach out and connect,” she said.

“It’s really quite a world-class exhibition.”

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