Jane Ash Poitras

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Jane Ash Poitras
Born(1951-10-11)October 11, 1951
Fort Chipewyan, Alberta, Canada
NationalityCree, Canadian
Known forPainting, Printmaking
AwardsCM (2017)

Jane Ash Poitras CM (born 1951) is a Cree painter and printmaker from Canada. Her work uses the idioms of mainstream art to express the experience of Aboriginal people in Canada.[1]


...each blank canvas is an invitation to a journey of discovery. I may begin with an idea of what the final destination—the completed painting—may be, but I’m always open to the unexpected. As Carl Beam said, the art of placement is a spiritual act. Each step in the creative process may reveal unexpected choices that require decisions. The final decision for each piece is to know when it is resolved, when it is finished.

— Jane Ash Poitras, Jane Ash Poitras: Acclaimed Aboriginal Artist Receives Distinguished Artist Award, First Nation Drum[2]

Poitras uses a vocabulary of layered images, readymades and text to explore the historical and personal experience of an aboriginal person in Canadian society. This approach to creating images was developed out of Dada by the American Abstract Expressionists and their associates; Mark Rothko, Kurt Schwitters, Robert Rauschenberg, and Cy Twombly. Poitras was exposed to this work during her studies at Columbia University.[1]

Poitras extends the meaning of her paintings by applying objects holding symbolic significance to the surface of the compositions. A Sacred Prayer for a Sacred Island, 1991 includes an eagle feather and a five dollar bill.[3] An eagle feather is considered sacred by North American Aboriginal People; the five-dollar bill represents the treaty annuity paid by the Canadian government to aboriginal individuals.[4]

The paintings Poitras creates can be very large. One of the pieces acquired by the Royal Ontario Museum in 2010 is a triptych 25 feet long by 9 feet high. Potato Peeling 101 to Ethnobotany 101 (2004), portrays a narrative of the experience of preserving aboriginal cultural knowledge through the years of forced assimilation.[5]

Poitras maintains an active exhibition schedule, having participated in over 30 solo exhibitions and 60 group exhibitions before 2006.[6] She is a long-standing sessional instructor with the University of Alberta and travels as a guest lecturer across North America.[7]


Poitras has mentored young apprentice artists of Aboriginal background, including Linus Woods.[8]

Selected Collections[edit]

Selected Honours[edit]

Order of Canada

Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal

Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from University of Calgary

Honorary Doctor of Letters degree from University of Alberta


Jane Ash Poitras was born in Fort Chipewyan Alberta in 1951. Her mother died of tuberculosis when Poitras was six and she was adopted by an elderly German woman. She grew up in Edmonton, Alberta in a Catholic household.[20] Before turning to a career in the arts, she obtained a B.Sc. in microbiology at the University of Alberta. She later obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in printmaking from the University of Alberta and a Master's from Columbia University.


  • MacKay, G. (1994, Fall). Lady oracle: Jane ash poitras and the first nations phenomenon. Canadian Art, 11, 74-81. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/216875107
  • McCallum, Pamela. Cultural Memories and Imagined Futures: The Art of Jane Ash Poitras. Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2011. Print.
  • Poitras, Jane A, and Rick Rivet. Osopikahikiwak. Paris: Services culturels de l'Ambassade du Canada, 1999. Print.
  • Ryan, Allan J (Autumn 1992). "Postmodern Parody: A Political Strategy in Contemporary Canadian Native Art". Art Journal. College Art Association. 51 (3): 59–65. JSTOR 777349.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Jane Ash Poitras (1951-10-11). "Jane Ash Poitras - National Gallery of Canada | National Gallery of Canada". National Gallery of Canada. Retrieved 2013-08-21.
  2. ^ a b Buehler, Clint (25 April 2011). "Jane Ash Poitras: Acclaimed Aboriginal Artist Receives Distinguished Artist Award". First Nation Drum. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
  3. ^ "A Sacred Prayer for a Sacred Island, 1991". National Gallery of Canada. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
  4. ^ Dow, Katherine (13 June 2012). "It's a small amount, but a big symbol". Winnipeg Free Press. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
  5. ^ Buehler, Clint (20 October 2010). "Royal Ontario Museum Exhibits Major Works by Jane Ash Poitras". First Nations Drum. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
  6. ^ "Ms. Jane Ash Poitras". Indspire. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
  7. ^ a b "Recipient Biographies K-Q". University of Alberta. Archived from the original on 4 October 2013. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
  8. ^ Svjetlana Mlinarevic (November 10, 2014). "Space Rabbit". The Graphic.
  9. ^ "Jane Ash Poitras: New Acquisitions of Contemporary First Nations Art | Level 1 | Royal Ontario Museum". Royal Ontario Museum. Retrieved 2013-08-21.
  10. ^ "Shaman Never Die IV; Preserve our Children". Canadian Museum of Civilization. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
  11. ^ "Buffalo Spirit". Brooklyn Museum. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
  12. ^ "Search the Collection". Canada Council. Archived from the original on 4 October 2013. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Artefacts Canada Humanities". Government of Canada. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
  14. ^ "The Collection - Contemporary Art". McMichael Canadian Art Collection. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
  15. ^ "Shaman Never Die: Return to Your Ancestral Roots, 1989". Winnipeg Art Gallery. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
  16. ^ "Members since 1880". Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. Archived from the original on 26 May 2011. Retrieved 11 September 2013.
  17. ^ "Alberta Centennial Medal Recipients". Government of Alberta. Archived from the original on 4 October 2013. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
  18. ^ "2006 Laureates". Indspire. Archived from the original on 4 October 2013. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
  19. ^ "2011 Distinguished Artist Recipient Jane Ash Poitras, RCA". Lieutenant Governor of Alberta. Archived from the original on 4 October 2013. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
  20. ^ "Artist Portfolio:Jane Ash Poitras (1951- ), Cree Artist". spiritwrestler.com. Spirit Wrestler Gallery. Retrieved 20 August 2013.