Jane Ash Poitras at the Royal Ontario Museum

Jane Ash Poitras at the Royal Ontario Museum

Among the most significant displays recently announced at the Royal Ontario Museum is the works of renowned artist Jane Ash Poitras. Jane has maintained her impact in the art world where she has made her impact through her expressive “mixed-media assemblages” that impacts both the past and present on matters such as colonialism. The artist through her painting has maintained a unique combination of the past and present where she focuses on traditional non-Western treatments through the use of herbs and shifts to express their significance to the scientific discoveries. Additionally, through the four main paintings displayed at the Royal Ontario Museum, she expresses the significance of the different cultures. We shall focus on providing a review of the “Jane Ash Poitras: New Acquisition of Contemporary First Nation Art” based on the announcement at the Royal Ontario Museum.

Featured Works of Jane Ash Poitras

Buffalo Seed (2004)

In this painting, Poitras has focused on the aspect of culture and its significance where she delves on the loss associated with the traditional culture. By focusing on culture and nature as her central theme in the paintings, Poitras established a correlation between human knowledge on plants and medicine by observing

the operations of animals. For instances, there is the underlying concept that humans became aware of the importance of sunflower through the aspect of observation and in this case, that of buffalos. Poitras makes use of the element of juxtaposition where uses this technique in bringing together images of death alongside those of traditional elders and a white artist of the 19th century depiction of buffalo hunting.


The Extermination (1997)

Through this painting, Poitras focuses on the aspect of colonialism through her work regarding the connection between hunting of the buffalos and the loss of the native culture in the 19th century. Her paintings show how the slaughtering of the buffalos during the said period played a crucial role in the loss of specific knowledge that impacted the Plain Indian Economy. Following the use of imagery in this painting, Poitras managed to bring together Frank Henderson’s 1880s work, “Arapaho orphan”, and create a contrasting image of it with the human skulls associated with the Rwandan genocide. Here, the underlying use of imagery is to emphasize the human extermination that can be derived from destruction of the environment and constant violence.

Potato Peeling 101 to Ethnobotany 101 (2004)

Noted as one of the most significant paintings in the exhibition of Poitras works, the paintings is seen as a clear contrast to the subject of Native culture. The painting focuses on one of the themes of Poitras paintings which is the impact of colonialism on culture and traditions. The subject revolves around the subject matter of Native Indian families falling victim to forced assimilation by the authorities where they were

denied access to their homes, knowledge on their culture and language. As an alternative, they were subjected to skills that would reduce them to farm workers and housemaids. Poitras depicts the loss of the healing and medicinal wisdom following the enslavement of the children to the ancestors.

It’s Good for Your Heart (2003)

Poitras reserved her last paintings for its significance in portraying the subsequent success of the Native people where they are involved in various professional achievements and academic success. Poitras develops a contrast of the mistreatment of the Natives in the society and the loss of culture with their sudden success in scientific discoveries despite the loss of their medicinal wisdom to the ancestors. Poitras offered the example of healing properties associated with Foxglove for heart disease and the tracing of its roots to the indigenous medicines of the Natives.