Skip to content

Prince Rupert Ts’msyen artist’s work bought by Canada Council Art Bank

‘I often use my work as a way to learn about, celebrate and share our language with others’: artist
Kelli Clifton with her painting, G̱aksdanaa (Behold!), which was bought by the Canada Council Art Bank in 2023. (Photo: Facebook)

A painting by Prince Rupert artist Kelli Clifton is one of 71 pieces purchased for $600,000 as an acquisition to celebrate the Canada Council Art Bank, the organization stated on Jan. 18.

Clifton’s painting, Gaksdanaa (Behold!), was created in 2020.

“Gaksdanaa” is a word in Sm’algya̱x that often appears in our adaawx (true tellings) when something dramatic is about to happen. It essentially means “behold!” and has become a fan-favourite word amongst language learners. I wanted to create a painting that captures the mysterious nature of our adaawx, the fun aspects of language learning and the pure joy that Sm’algya̱x learners feel whenever we see or hear this word,” Clifton stated.

She explained that Sm’algya̱x is the language spoken by Ts’msyen people and it is at risk due to acts of colonization.

“As someone who is both an artist and a language learner, I often use my work as a way to learn about, celebrate and share our language with others,” she said.

More than 1,700 artists responded to the Art Bank’s call for submissions Priority was given to artists who self-identify as Indigenous, Black, racialized, deaf or having a disability, from official language minority communities, youth, 2SLGBTQI+, gender-diverse and women.

Clifton chose to submit her piece because it is a celebration of Sm’algyax language and she knew that if it was selected, it would have the potential to reach a broader audience.

“I feel that now more than ever, our Indigenous languages need to be highlighted,” she told The Northern View.

“Through my work, I hope to inspire others in their learning.”

Clifton’s work will join more than 17,000 artworks by more than 3,000 artists at the Art Bank, including work by Dempsey Bob, Robert Davidson and his brother Reg Davidson.

The goal of the art bank is to make contemporary artwork available to the wider public through corporate art rental, museum loans and outreach.

“Art is often an expression and an account of an artist’s quest for identity. Sharing the ideas, feelings and impressions that a work of art can arouse can impact our understanding and our experience of equality and belonging,” Simon Brault, director and chief executive officer at the Canada Council for the Arts said.

“With these latest acquisitions, the Canada Council Art Bank collection is all the more inclusive and representative of the art that is currently being created and contributing to societal progress. Diversity is what will fashion our future, and I am proud to bear witness to that irresistible movement.”