Our Current Inventory

Born in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta, of Cree heritage, Jan Ash Poitras (1951-) was orphaned at the age of six when her mother died from tuberculosis.   The young girl was raised in Edmonton by Marguerite Runck, an elderly German lady, a devout Catholic, at a time when “people did not take too kindly to Indians”.   The strong spiritual component of her upbringing transitioned to a Native spirituality later on.  Her primary education, coinciding with her growth as an artist, reinforced the non-Native cultural traditions in which she was raised.

Degrees in Science (microbiology) and Fine Arts (printmaking) from the University of Alberta led to advanced work in printmaking at Yale University and Columbia University.  It was at Columbia where she learned about collage as well as a non-Western aesthetic.  As an artist today, Poitras uses a vocabulary of layered images to explore the historical and personal experiences of an aboriginal person in Canadian society.  This approach to creating images was developed out of Dada by the American Abstract Expressionists and their associates.  In addition to actively pursuing her work, she travels as a guest lecturer all across North America.

Selected Collections

  • National Gallery of Canada
  • Royal Ontario Museum
  • Canadian Museum of Civilization
  • Brooklyn Museum
  • Canada Council Art Bank
  • Leonard and Bina Ellen Art Gallery, Concordia University
  • McMichael Canadian Art Collection
  • Royal Alberta Museum
  • Art Gallery of Ontario
  • Edmonton Art Gallery, now known as the Art Gallery of Alberta
  • Art Gallery of Nova Scotia
  • Vancouver Art Gallery
  • Winnipeg Art Gallery
  • Glenbow-Alberta Institute, Glenbow Museum
  • The Robert McLaughlin Gallery
  • MacKenzie Art Gallery
  • Agnes Etherington Art Centre

Selected Honours

  • Royal Canadian Academy of Arts
  • Alberta Centennial Medal
  • National Aboriginal Achievement Award for Arts and Culture, 2006
  • University of Alberta Alumni Award of Excellence
  • Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Distinguished Artist Award