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Sharing his artistic voice

By Daron Letts
Northern News Services
Published Saturday, November 29, 2008

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - Carver Dennis Hudson moved from his home in Fort Smith to open a new working studio just outside Yellowknife late this summer. He is using stone and other Northern materials to share stories and insights about his Metis identity.

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Born in Fort Smith, artist Dennis Hudson opened a new carving studio just outside Yellowknife this summer. Pictured here is his latest carving, which depicts a wolf and eagle in red Kissi stone.- Daron Letts/NNSL photo

He said he draws inspiration from a quote he attributes to Metis political leader Louis Riel: "My people will sleep for 100 years. When they awaken it will be the artists who open their eyes."

The Metis carver, whose mother was Dene and father was French Canadian Cree Metis, celebrated Riel's sentiment with a large work earlier this year.

"It's also a theme I am going to use as inspiration to tell stories about our people," Hudson said. "We need more Dene Metis artists to show the world our culture and the way we think. A lot can be learned by looking at people's art." Hudson, who turns 50 next year, learned to carve at age 15. He credits his brother-in-law, Sonny MacDonald, with teaching him to carve in the early years.

"Even today he still inspires me," Hudson said.

He said he is proud to have worked alongside and learned from other Northern carvers such as Eli Nasogaluak and John Sabourin.

Hudson feels a responsibility to continue sharing artistic knowledge by reaching out to young Dene Metis artists.

"Youth need to feel a sense of independence," he said. "They need to know how it feels to provide for themselves."

Art offers one avenue for youth to experience that pride, he said. Creating their own stories by creating beauty in stone and Northern materials can inspire young people just as it has inspired him.

This month he is working on a life-sized sandhill crane using old pine, driftwood and caribou antler. He has a large hawk in flight he is carving in local sandstone. He refers to his materials as a renewable resource that participates in the global economy.

Some of his work is available through Arrowmakers Fine Traditional Art Gallery in Yellowknife. Hudson is also approaching buyers this month with his latest works.