Mildred Valley Thornton retrospective highlights a determined artist

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      Mildred Valley Thorton dedicated the majority of her career to the local art community. She exhibited in both group and solo shows at the Vancouver Art Gallery and was the Vancouver Sun’s art critic for over a decade. She was known for being a strong advocate for women’s rights and for issues directly affecting Indigenous people in Canada.

      The late artist, who died in 1967, is most known for her portraits of Indigenous chiefs and elders, which span over four decades of her career—first sparked when her family moved to Regina and she encountered Canada’s Indigenous people.

      “I began to develop an uncontrollable urge to paint Western Canadian Indians in all walks of life, recording everything I could with brush and paint,” she shares in her book Indian Lives and Legends

      Her appreciation and respect for Indigenous people was highlighted by her motivation not to sell any of the portraits in her lifetime, opting to keep the collection intact in hopes that it would be acquired and shared with the public. When her work was not acquired, she added a stipulation to her will that her portraits should be destroyed upon her death. However, the will was not properly witnessed, and her collection remains.

      Mrs. Andy Frank. Kwakiutl. 1952. Oil on board, 22.5” x 16” (57.15 x 40.64 cm).

      And it will soon be exhibited at Westbridge Fine Art on Fir Street in what is being billed as the first major showing of her work in 24 years. The exhibition will open on May 25 alongside the launch for the book Owas-Ka-Ta-Esk-Ean: Indigenous Portraits by Mildred Valley Thornton, FRSA (1890-1967): A Catalogue Raisonné.

      Owas-ka-Ta-Esk-Ean was a name given to Thornton by the Cree Nation; it translates to “putting your most ability for us Indians.”

      Mildred Valley Thornton, A Retrospective Exhibition

      May 25 to June 7

      Where: Westbridge Fine Art

      Admission: Free