In February 2015, Chris Robinson, the Royal Alberta Museum’s executive director, approached the FRAMS board with a special request. The museum was interested in acquiring a painting by one of Canada’s greatest living artists – Alex Janvier – to be part of the new museum’s residential schools component of Alberta’s human history. Chris asked the board if FRAMS would consider making this important purchase as a gift to the museum.

The painting – Blood Tears – is a deeply personal work that was painted in 2001 on the artist’s 66th birthday. The painting speaks to Mr Janvier’s own experiences during his ten years at the Blue Quills Indian Residential School. In addition, on the reverse of the painting is a list written in the artist’s own hand that reflects on the many losses suffered by the children who experienced residential schools, ending with the statement, “The rest will take their silence to their graves as many have to this day.”

Following consideration of the museum’s request, the board voted unanimously to purchase the painting for $40,000 and donate it to the museum on behalf of FRAMS. Since then, the painting has undergone conservation work at the museum that included a re-framing of the painting, which revealed a surprise addition to the list written by the artist. In unrolling the edges of the canvas, one last line, hidden for years, was revealed that says, “God bless the survivor, who spoke to live.”

In August 2016, FRAMS members were invited to view their gift to the museum when a special evening Talk & Tour was held at the Glenora museum in the presence of the artist. Alex and Jacqueline Janvier were honoured guests at the evening where Mr. Janvier spoke movingly of his childhood experiences at Blue Quills.

Alex Janvier speaking about his painting ‘Blood Tears’.

 

 

Alex Janvier speaking with ISMI student Deserae Yellow Horn.

Following the unveiling of Blood Tears, guests had an opportunity to view both sides of the painting and speak with Mr Janvier. It was a very special evening for FRAMS and the museum. FRAMS would like to once again thank Alex and Jacqueline Janvier for sharing their time with us and for making the evening such a memorable event. FRAMS would also like to thank all the RAM staff members who enabled the evening to take place, including Susan Berry and her ethnology team, and Carmen Li and her team of conservators.

Our special thanks also go to all our FRAMS members – it is because of your support and donations that FRAMS was able to step up and meet the museum’s request. And thanks to you, the new museum will now be the permanent home of an iconic piece of Canadian art that will help to tell the story of residential schools. Thank you.

Blood Tears was on loan to the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa for the exhibition: Alex Janvier: Modern Indigenous Master, until April 17, 2017.

FRAMS is very proud to have purchased this very important piece of art for the Royal Alberta Museum’s collection.