Angelique Merasty Originals (2) Birch-bark Biting 1st Nations Folk Museum Framed
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Angelique Merasty Originals (2) Birch-bark Biting 1st Nations Folk Museum Framed:
ANGELIQUE MERASTY (1924 - 1996)
Two (2) Signed Originals
Rare Signed Originals from this late,
Great master of a dying art
Museum-Quality Primitive Folk Art
Original 1st Nations FOLK ART Original Primities; UNIQUE
Extemely Scarce now that Merasty is deceased
Each one museum framed with acid-free matting
Each one SIGNED, as shown above
COA: Includes Certificate of Authenticity
Gallery Price: $2,250 each!
Being sold framed (Framing alone costs $500!)
Angelique Merasty - Untitled
Original birch bark biting art, sold as a PAIR x2
ABOUT THE ARTIST: Angelique Merasty is an important First Nations artist. She was born in Beaver Lake, Manitoba in 1924 and died in 1996. When she was a young woman, her mother, Susan Ballantyne, taught her the art of birch bark biting and Merasty continued to practice until her teeth became too loose to continue. Originally her works were more traditional, like her mother’s, in their balance and geometric pattern, but as she matured as an artist her imagery changed and she created her own style. Lee-Ann Martin explains, “Later, she developed a highly personal style that included floral variations, as well as zoomorphic images such as insects, butterflies, hummingbirds, fish, rabbits, owls, ants and mice.” (Martin, 1999)
Birch bark bitings are a tradition of the Woodland Cree, were developed hundreds of years ago and were usually made by First Nations women as a form of entertainment or social activity at their gatherings. The women of each Woodland Cree family developed their own style or look for their "bitings" and would often enter competitions to determine who could make the best patterns. They also used their "biting images" in designing their beadwork and quillwork. Each family group had its own unique patterns and these were sewn on clothing and incidentals for their members.
Few artists continue to make art using this technique, but it is being revived through the work of artists like Merasty. Elizabeth McLuhan states about Merasty’s influence on birch bark biting traditions, “More recently, through the work of Cree artist Angelique Merasty of Beaver Lake, Manitoba, bark biting has achieved the status and market of fine art. Merasty’s own technical virtuosity and visual repertoire have greatly amplified the traditional range of rudimentary geometric designs to include rich curvilinear floral, insect, animal and human figures.” (McLuhan, undated) Through the diligence and training of artists like Merasty, this art form will hopefully continue for many years to come.
Birch bark bitings, known as “wigwas mamacenawejegan” in Ojibwa, can also be referred to as “chews” and are one of the oldest Aboriginal art forms. They are produced by folding a thin sheet of birch bark and biting into it to mark or pierce the surface. When unfolded, the birch bark would then reveal a symmetrical design. A small biting can be created in as little as two to three minutes. Initially, the finished bitings were used as ideas or templates for more serious beadwork and later discarded when they were no longer useful.
To prepare to make a bark biting, Merasty would have to find supple sheets of birch bark that were knot free and easily separated. Once separated, a sheet of bark would be folded two or more times and the design would usually develop from the center of the fold and move outward toward the edges. By the very nature of the process the resulting images are balanced and symmetrical and no two works are ever the same.
Once everything was prepared, and before beginning to bite into the bark, Merasty needed to imagine and formulate in her mind the image she wanted to represent. The success of the image imprint and design development was dependent upon the use of the eye-tooth. As Angelique developed her skills, she was able to make a biting from start to finish without stopping to look at her progress. Her early designs were more geometric, but as she developed her own style, she started to use images of animals and flowers. The sizes of her works varied from seven-and-a-half centimetres to around twenty-five centimetres, because good, large pieces of birch bark are often hard to find. The best birch bark for this process can be found in the spring and it needs to be separated into thin layers before the process can begin. “Transparencies” are made from specially prepared and folded bark and are held up to the light to reveal the design.
Heather Dyck comments about the finished works, “Different bite intensities, repetitions, and folds make each birch bark biting unique. The biting is completed when it is held up to the sun so that the bark warms to a golden hue and the hundreds of perforations are filled with light.” The finished works are reminiscent of embroidery or lace doilies and are widely sought by collectors world wide