Pathways to a digital legacy

Buffy Sainte-Marie exhibition sheds light on innovative work

Buffy Sainte-Marie: Pathfinder is an exhibition of digital art by the iconic musician. (Supplied photo.)

The new year started well for Academy Award-winning singer-songwriter, Indigenous activist and digital artist Buffy Sainte-Marie. In addition to her new deal with Cameron Strang’s Howe Sound Publishing and a documentary being produced by White Pine Pictures, Sainte-Marie is getting the recognition she deserves for her lasting impact in the Canadian arts and culture scene through an exhibition at Urban Shaman Gallery in Winnipeg.

The exhibition, which features works from Sainte-Marie’s digital portfolio, includes blended scanned images of her sketches, beadwork and other pieces. Though Urban Shaman Gallery is currently temporarily closed due to COVID-19, a virtual showing will run from now until March 5.

Although she has been in the public eye for years, Sainte-Marie is often not recognized for accomplishments outside of her music. This exhibition is an opportunity for her to reclaim her own narrative and share more about her personal life.

“Mostly I learned about how much misinformation there is out there about her. I think the biggest takeaway from this is that Buffy Sainte-Marie is an example of longevity and authenticity as an artist,” Paquin Entertainment curatorial manager Natasha Lowenthal says about what she learned during the process of curating the Buffy Sainte-Marie: Pathfinder exhibition alongside the artist herself.

Lowenthal says Sainte-Marie was “at the forefront of (digital art) before the medium was used for art’s sake.”

The exhibition showcases over 16 digital paintings (some made with an Apple Macintosh computer), as well as artifacts, never-before-seen sketches and behind-thescenes footage. All these artistic elements shed light on her impact in folk music (most notably for her antiwar anthem “Universal Soldier’’ and the Oscar-winning “Up Where We Belong”), her vocal support for education and her involvement in Indigenous rights since her career began in the early ’60s.

To commemorate the exhibition before it became open to the public at the end of 2021, Sainte-Marie paid a visit to the gallery in a private get-together.

“It was great to have her here. She was here for the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs event (Jingle Mingle) and wanted to present her exhibition at the same time here in Winnipeg. She came in and walked through the show with us, and it was really great to hear more about her work,” Daina Warren, Urban Shaman’s gallery director, says.

Although Pathfinder was available to see in person by appointment at the gallery when it launched, the new wave of the COVID-19 pandemic led to an imminent shutdown. To allow people to continue connecting to this and other Indigenous artwork, Urban Shaman made virtual tours available.

“The virtual galleries have become a long-time goal, because we tend to do a lot more outreach with reserve and remote communities. This is just one way we are hoping to connect with them and show them what our programming is all about,” Warren says.

The Buffy Sainte-Marie: Pathfinder virtual gallery is already available through The exhibition will continue at Urban Shaman until March 2022, so there may still be time to check it out in person if the gallery reopens.

Published in Volume 76, Number 15 of The Uniter (January 27, 2022)

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