Following in my Ancestor’s footsteps
Judith Warren Painting Award
My name is Nicole Johnston, and I am an indigenous artist from the Squamish Nation, situated in Vancouver. Much of my work incorporates traditional Squamish mediums, stories or styles. I am concentrating on creating pieces that represent the culturally significant landmarks in the Squamish Nation. One direction that my practice has focused on is these bright abstract landscape paintings. I have always found landscapes to be especially comforting because of the relationships I cultivated with the lands I grew up on, constantly travelling between mountains. This has had a large impact on my artistic vision and is often the subject of my pieces. I am endlessly amazed by the formation of mountains and how radically the view can change from one turn to the next. This collection of paintings is a small portion of my work that highlights the direction my practice is taking. While I create a piece, I aim to use the works as a tool to learn something about my family heritage. Each work is accompanied with many visits with my elders, relatives or the land.
Rising from the Shadows is an acrylic painting exploring my relationship with my culture while growing up in and around a city. My sister and I were walking home last fall when she pointed out that the shadow cast by the traffic light resembled a totem pole. With this in mind, I knew I wanted to include a pole design from my family. The shadow featured in the painting is inspired by a totem pole carved by my great great uncle Tommy Moses.
A Family Tale (Lighthouse), is focused on the story of my great, great grandfather Scotty Jorgenson who was the lighthouse keeper on Galiano island. While visiting with my grandmother, I am constantly told stories of the Scottish lighthouse keeper that we are related to. This landmark holds such a prominent part in my family’s history that I felt it fit alongside my paintings of key figures from my nation’s stories.
Ch’ich’iyuy and Black Tusk both are staple figures in common traditional stories. The sisters (Ch’ich’iyuy), is widely recognizable and accessible to the general public. I have spent a large amount of time with these mountains, both in person, admiring them but also repeatedly painting and drawing them. They hold a special place in my heart, this was the first legend I was able to memorize.
Blackcomb Backcountry is a painting I created after my first trip into the backcountry. I am so fortunate to be able to journey across the mountains and experience the spirituality of these places.
Rising from the shadows, 30 x 36 inches, acrylic on canvas, 2023.
A Family Tale (Lighthouse), Acrylic on canvas, 28 x 40 inches, 2021.
Ch’ich’iyuy, Acrylic on canvas, 2021, 24 x30 inches.
Black Tusk, Acrylic on canvas, 22 x 28 inches, 2021.
Blackcomb backcountry, 20 x 20, acrylic on canvas, 2022.