Leah Dorion’s “Spirit Dancers,” A Beautiful New Cover for Blue Marrow

Cover art for a brand new edition of a classic poetry collection…

When Louise B. Halfe offered Kegedonce Press her poetry collection Blue Marrow for re-publication, she suggested artwork by Métis artist Leah Dorion for the cover. Leah’s piece, “Spirit Dancers,” is a fitting match for the themes and subjects of Blue Marrow‘s poetry. Thanks to Leah’s artwork, art direction by Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm, and the layout design by Chantal Lalonde, the brand-new third editon is one truly beautiful book.

In celebration of the release of the new edition of Blue Marrow, we spoke with Leah Dorion about her artwork. Here is that interview:

Kegedonce Press: Can you tell us a little bit about the piece, “Spirit Dancers”? What does it depict? What were your influences? Is there a story behind the painting? 

Leah Dorion: I just love Indigenous women’s traditional dance forms especially the jingle dress and the fancy shawl. Every time I watch our women dance at cultural events and pow-wows my spirit is lifted, and this painting reflects how I feel when our women dance in our community.

KP: Is your artwork grounded in a specific culture, language, nation?  

LD: I am a Métis from central Saskatchewan so big prairie skies, bright sunny days, and strong prairie winds are well represented in this artwork, “Spirit Dancers.” I also love the beautiful designs and colours of Indigenous women’s traditional dance regalia thus, I used lots of repeating patterns and bright colours, and wind-current symbolism on the clothing designs worn by the three women figures in the painting.

KP: Can you tell us a little about your process? What are your materials? Where do you begin with a new painting?

LD: I have a crazy active imagination and I am never stuck for ideas. I usually put my ideas down on a rough sketch, then transfer them to good copy, and then let my intuition and spirit guide the final painting process. I am a big kid at heart so my work is playful and some of my favourite projects are illustrating children’s books and of course representing Indigenous women’s spirituality. Mother Earth and the Creator are my favourite artists; they both inspire me to be super creative.

KP: What is the most important thing you have learned through creating your artwork?

LD: I have learned patience and to stop any critical thinking during my artistic practice. I try to bring Mother Earth energy into my artistic practice and she really is a key muse in all my artworks.

KP: What pieces are you working on now, or most recently?

LD: I am finally exhibiting works from my 13 Moons art show which is a tribute to Indigenous women moon teachings. It has already had a showing at the Dunlop Gallery in Regina and some of the work is going into an art show in Edmonton this week. I hope to feature the show at both Batoche National Historic Park and Wanuskewin in the near future.

KP: What do you think of Blue Marrow and its use of your work?

LD: Since Louise has a traditional spirit name “Sky Dancer,” I feel this painting was destined for this book, as two spirit women are dancing in the cornmeal blue sky which represents her traditional name so beautifully. As such, this painting is a great match for Blue Marrow as the colour symbolism used throughout the painting is blue dominant! I love how the woman with her fancy shawl opened up has Thunderbirds and blue stars on the inside of her spirit shawl. I also think the painting is a good match as the woman grounded in the earth is wearing all hues of blue. 

If you would like to see more of Leah’s breathtaking artwork, check out her website at https://leahdorion.ca/
Leah has a show opening online at Gallery@501 from March 11 to 24, 2021.

The painting, “Spirit Dancers” wraps around to the back cover of Blue Marrow. Here is an image of the full cover.

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