It’s a different take on a story at the heart of Christianity.
On April 8, Woody Nook Christian Reformed Church held the opening reception for their display of Kisemanito Pakitinasuwin, or the Creator’s Sacrifice, a collection of 17 paintings by Saskatchewan Cree artist Ovide Bighetty.
During the reception, attendees were treated to a performance by the Red Deer Aboriginal Dance Troupe and learned a little about what Bighetty was trying to accomplish with his paintings and his style of painting, the Woodland Style.
Unfortunately, Bighetty passed away two weeks ago, making the Woody Nook exhibition the first since his death.
However Lacombe history buff Marie Péron, who has a background in art history, was available to shed some light on his methods.
Peron said that Woodland Style can be characterized by the deep colours and strong black lines used between them.
She said the style can be compared to the stained glass pictures seen in cathedrals and churches.
Stained glass art uses bright colours broken by lines to create images and Woodland Style uses dark lines between colours to do the same.
As stained glass is often used to tell the story of Christ and his disciples, Bighetty is also using the Woodland Style to tell the story of Christ’s death and resurrection.
The Creator’s Sacrifice tells a story that is familiar to any Christian.
It is the story of Jesus’ journey from betrayal, to the death on the cross, to resurrection, commonly known as the Passion of the Christ or the Stations of the Cross.
However, Bighetty tells the story in a different way. He uses traditional Cree symbolism and the Woodland Style to blend together the gospel’s telling of the story as well as aboriginal culture.
Bighetty’s paintings in the collection are heavy on First Nations symbolism, but are done in such a way that they will be familiar to either audience.
“Bighetty’s use of symbolism and cultural traditions is at once recognizable,” said Péron.
“His work includes identifiable Christian symbols like the sun, the crown of thorns and the cross as well as First Nations symbols like the wampum belt, the birch tree (sundance pole) the eagle, the owl and the circle.”
Bighetty, who was raised Catholic but had strong ties to his Cree background as well, was commissioned by the Indian Métis Christian Fellowship to paint the series.
He drew his inspiration from the traditional gospel story as well as stories he heard from elders to create the images.
This travelling exhibit is part of a program from the Christian Reformed Church called reForming Relationships.
Pastor Neil de Koning said that the idea of reconciliation is a big objective for the church and it is part of the reason that this exhibit was created.
de Koning went on to say that it is no secret the relationship between the aboriginal community and those of European descent can be quite strained at times.
Bringing the exhibit to Woody Nook is a way to trying and bridge the gap between the two cultures.
Appealing to people with an interest in First Nations culture, art, and religion, the Creator’s Sacrifice certainly bridges gaps between a number of demographics.
“It was just a wonderful way to bring a few things together,” said de Koning.
The Creator’s Sacrifice exhibit will be on display April 10, 12-13, 15-17, 19-20 and 22-24.
The gallery will be open from 9:30 a.m. to noon from Tuesdays to Thursday and noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays as well as from 7 – 10 p.m. Tuesday evenings.