BLAKE NELSON SHAA’KOON LEPINE | OBSESSION, DEPRESSION AND HOPE
August 25 – October 7, 2023
ODD Gallery, Dënäkär Zho | KIAC
Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in territory, Dawson City, Yukon
OPENING: Friday, August 25th: Artist Talk at 7:00PM, Reception to follow
Workshops: Saturday, August 26, NOON – 5:00PM at the Dawson Daily News Print & Publishing Festival
Gallery Hours: Mondays – Fridays: 10am – 5pm & Saturdays: 12 – 4pm
The ODD Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of new prints, paintings and installation work by Blake Nelson Shaa’koon Lepine.
I remember when I wasn’t depressed, when the world seemed to glow, the leaves on the poplar trees seemed greener and fluttered with such rhythm, just like perfectly timed music. Something happened to my brain around the age of 17, I became withdrawn and began to obsess over anything that seemed to alleviate the weight I felt. It felt in those moments the dark clouds were hanging only over my head, and I remember feeling angry at the world. I remember the glimmer of the world seemed to dampen and I became very sad, and I isolated myself. I quickly learned however in my isolation that as long as I directed my obsessions into things that would help serve me, I could find comfort and relief of that heaviness. My obsessions quickly became my passions which helps keep the depression in flux with hope.
Blake Nelson Lepine or Shaá’koon, was born and raised in Whitehorse, Yukon. There’s a beautiful mixture of heritage in his background, he descends from Tlingit, Han, Cree and Scottish decent. However it’s the Tlingit culture that he grew up around the most. Coming from a very strong and culturally intact background within the Tlingit nation this gave him the tools and knowledge he needed to guide his life in the way he wanted. The Tlingit artwork spoke to him from an early age, and being surrounded by the artists within his family, this inspired him to start drawing from a young age. Blake began with life drawing of animals and tracing out old designs from carving books his mother had laying around, this was his way of learning at age 7.
Blake grew up with his sister Kara, and his parents, Karen and Nelson Lepine, grandparents Marie and Les Johns, and many aunts, uncles and multitude of cousins who also influenced his choices to pursue artwork as his life work. Blake would spend fall time, winter and spring in school, and then when the summers would come and thats when the learning began, spending every summer out on the land with his large and knowledgeable family. It became tradition to spend the summer months fishing, hunting and harvesting. Putting away food for the winter and getting an education from being on the land. Harvesting during the day and studying with the elders and family in the evenings around the campfires, underneath the stars. This went on until Blake decided at the age of 20, that he wanted to fully emerge himself in the Tlingit art form and make it his primary focus of study.
There have been many teachers over the years and each one seemed to come into his world exactly when they were needed. Blake has trained with: Ken Anderson, Mike Dangeli, Brian Walker, Calvin Morberg, Benjamin Schleifman, Wayne Price, Duran Henry, and of course his greatest teacher of all Karen Lepine, his mother. Many hours have been spent practicing and perfecting his own stylized form and interpretation of this art to give a modern voice to an ancient art, but also branching it into modern mediums other than the traditional forms of carving and painting of his ancestors. Blake has also taken on studies in silk screening and design, beadwork, textile work and sewing, painted leather, collage, block printing and watercolour.
Blake has also taken on other studies that he felt were important cultural elements, starting with song and dance, and then moving on to language and traditional medicines. Attending language camps and working with elders to try and revitalize the Tlingit language has also been one of his passions. When Blake was 19 he joined The Dakhká Khwáan Dancers, which fuelled his creative fire with dancing, singing and performing ancient songs and also creating new songs and dances to accompany them. Still to this day, Blake remains one of the oldest members of this Yukon based dance group. Next, for 5 years, Blake attended studies at Pacific Rim College in Victoria, B.C. for Holistic Nutrition and Phytotherapy to become a clinically trained medical herbalist.
In this moment, Blake lives in his hometown of Whitehorse, Yukon with his partner Erin Pauls and together they spend their time singing and dancing with the dance group and participating in the cultural realms together to share what they know and improve the lives of first nations in their communities and give back what has so lovingly enriched their lives. Blake is continually spending his free time prolifically creating artwork for both commercial and traditional uses, harvesting and researching traditional medicines and also putting on community workshops, and working to train a new generation of artists, herbalists and dancers.
We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.