“I make art and it makes me...”
I make art and it makes me; but it is always about us, my people. In my early days, I replicated, then stylized, motifs from the petroglyphs of my ancestors, eventually using them as particles of each other to form a medium for our cosmology. I am influenced by my times – culture, art, politics – but my identity is rooted in resilient heritage and so is my art. It is culture, art, politics.
The political element is not issue-based painting subjects, but the consistent assertion of a living and creative Mi’kmaw visual language. I paint atemporal ideas and values through characters and symbols that have been labeled mythical, but that revive the cultural life.
As my art practice developed, it became clear that this purpose would best be served by accessibility. So, while I made original paintings, I also built a business around t-shirts and prints (which became my livelihood). More recently, I have a public voice that presents opportunities for my work to reach many as both art and culture (and commerce).
I am currently exhibiting in a collaborative show called The Path We Share. The title refers to the parallel journeys of post-European-contact whales and peoples of Mi'kma'ki. It also speaks to the common path of the indigenous artists.
Painting is the heartbeat of my art practice, but I explore animation, multi-media, and music. This year I will face the challenge of speaking about my (as the Coady Chair in Social Justice at St. Francis Xavier University). I find myself focused on Mi’kmaw youth, encouraging them to make art …to live culture.
Alan Syliboy is a Mi'kmaq visual artist from Millbrook, Nova Scotia.