In this Q&A blog series, Saskatoon-based artists reflect on the different ways this city influences their artistic practices and what they appreciate about living in Saskatoon. The next artists sharing their thoughts include roots-rock duo The North Sound and multidisciplinary artist Monique Martin.
Both The North Sound and Monique Martin have recently presented thought-provoking projects in the midst of the pandemic. The North Sound released their sophomore album As The Stars Explode on Oct 23, 2020, and performed a livestream set in early 2021 for the Sasktel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival, while Monique Martin has brightened up downtown Saskatoon with her springtime installation of thousands of paper dandelions, “Context is Everything”. Perhaps you’ll find yourself inspired to explore the city in new ways after reading through their artful answers!
The North Sound
Formed in 2014 by Forrest Eaglespeaker and supported by his partner Nevada Freistadt, The North Sound was created as a way to share stories in keeping true to Forrest's Blackfoot identity and traditions from Treaty 7 Territory. The North Sound has had four singles reach number one on the Indigenous Music Countdown as well as Saskatchewan's MBC Radio, won Indigenous Artist of the Year at the 2020 SaskMusic Awards as well as being voted #5 on "Best Albums of Saskatchewan 2020" for As The Stars Explode and has also received six nominations from the SCMA. Sharing the stage with the likes of Blue Rodeo, Kathleen Edwards, Eagle and Hawk, Derek Miller, Susan Aglukark, Celeigh Cardinal, Logan Staats, and many more, The North Sound has performed at multiple venues and festivals across Canada and the US sharing a message of tragedy and triumph wrapped up tight in a blanket of gratitude.
Photo credit Matt Braden Photo
Q: What do you appreciate about living in Saskatoon?
Forrest Eaglespeaker: Saskatoon has been a great place for us to raise our children - moved here from Calgary specifically for that reason. It's big enough that we have everything we need but still has a small-town feel. As cliché as this might be, I love being so close to the river. The riverwalk from Riversdale right up to the University Bridge is one of my favourite places in the world.
Nevada Freistadt: The pace of life we have here in Saskatoon. I also love the community and how it does its best to support local - whether it's food, businesses, arts and culture, or anything else that is homegrown.
Q: Where do you go in Saskatoon when seeking inspiration or working on ideas for your music?
Forrest: There is no one specific place in Saskatoon where I go for inspiration but Saskatoon itself. I have so many things going on in my head and am always looking for ways to interpret the world as I see it. With there being no skyscrapers, no endless rows of cookie-cutter neighbourhoods and no piles of cars and people, but instead endless sky, easy access to the countryside and a lot of room to breathe - I am constantly supported by the landscape to nurture my thoughts and ideas to turn them into songs.
Nevada: More often than not inspiration is not the thing I am in search of. What I am always looking for are places and things to ground me. Cranberry Flats and River Landing are two great examples of this that we frequent.
Q: How does living in Saskatoon influence your music?
Both: Saskatoon, and Saskatchewan itself, has always been a huge influence on us because there are so many things to love about this place. There are also a number of things that challenge us by making us face things that we are uncomfortable with and this forces us to look outside ourselves. These experiences are invaluable because they make us more compassionate, make us better communicators and all-around better people. The landscape, the people, the way of life and, from time to time, the politics and systemic injustices all influence our music.
Q: Do you have any music inspired by Saskatoon?
Both: Realistically everything we have released is in some way inspired by Saskatoon. Our most recent album As The Stars Explode has a song called "This Land" which was written about the Colton Boushie and Gerald Stanley case and the effects it had on not only us, but Saskatoon as a community, as well as the province. There are 101 other references I could point out but who has the time for that? You can check out all of our released work on all streaming platforms!
Listen to “This Land” on
Monique is a multi-disciplinary artist from Saskatoon, Canada with a 25-year exhibition history. She has exhibited her artwork in more than 260 significant solos, invited and juried group exhibitions in ten countries. More than 50 of these were solo exhibitions in public galleries. Renowned international curators have selected her artwork for various exhibitions worldwide. Her works are held in more than 44 public and private collections in ten different countries. Some of the major collections include: The Royal Alberta Museum, Boston Public Library, University of Washington Library, University of California-Los Angeles Library, Bytown Museum-Ottawa, among others. Her work often uses significant symbols or comments on contemporary social issues. Monique creates bodies of work rather than individual pieces and focuses on specific concepts, she undertakes extensive research prior to creating her work, often incorporating historically significant symbols and images to express her ideas. Her works push the boundaries of standard printmaking: enormous scale printmaking, installation-based printmaking and working with three dimensions in printmaking.
Photo credit Trint Thomas
Q: What do you appreciate about living in Saskatoon?
Monique Martin: Saskatoon is a big enough city that it has all a person could want as far as entertainment, services and availability of specialty products, but not so big that traffic, pollution, safety and congestion are a problem. I have lived in really big cities around the world, including Paris, and I found that the daily “hunt and gather” for food and things I needed took up much of my time. I had less time to create while living in larger centers than I do here in Saskatoon. In Saskatoon, I can zip in and out of a grocery store and maximize my creation time. If I need an art supply it is a 30-min trip, not a two-hour commute to get it. The airport is very close, in larger centers this is a major chunk of time lost to travelling there, and prior to the pandemic, I travelled a lot with my artwork.
Q: Where do you go in Saskatoon when seeking inspiration or when you are working on ideas for your art?
MM: I bike a lot in the summer months and think a lot while riding. I do not directly get inspiration from the landscape or architecture as I am not drawn to create images like that but the long look to the horizon, the 180-degree effect on the prairie does make my mind wander on creative paths. I do seek inspiration from conversations, things happening in the world and watching relationships/interactions between people. I do think through my ideas at the Boffins Club pond (inspired the piece “Pebble in a Pond”, created during lockdown), Beaver Creek and Cranberry Flats. I also love Hyde Park/Donna Birkmaier Park, a piece of nature, in the raw, within the city.
45 colour silkscreen, one colour per day during covid lockdown 10.5 x 16.5", 26.6 x 42 cm
I go to some local cafes where I solidify ideas and sit to reflect with sketchbook in hand. Calories, McNally Robinson, Mano’s deck in the summer and Shift to name a few. The library is also a place where I seek inspiration as many of my bodies of work require research before creating. My sketchbook filled with writing and ideas rather than with sketches, as my work is based on ideas and not on what I directly see.
How does living in Saskatoon influence your art?
MM: I wouldn’t say it directly influences my art as I don’t paint it or makes prints of Saskatoon but I would say that it influences me as I find ways to bring my art to the community. The recent installation of thousands of paper dandelions “Context is Everything” at The Brute (former STC bus depot). Meridian Development in Downtown Saskatoon was influenced by my wanting the people of Saskatoon to have something safe to do during COVID. The exhibition was only viewable from the outside.
Paper Dandelions at The Brute in Saskatoon. Life-size paper dandelions. Ink on various papers, silkscreen and linocut techniques]
In the past projects with my students from Georges Vanier School, we created the murals at Ronald McDonald House, University Hospital Pediatric Ward, The Forestry Farm Park and Zoo, Remai Modern - lightpost banners, Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan - lightpost banners and cut out boards to name just a few of them.
Do you have any pieces inspired by Saskatoon?
MM: Every piece of work I create is inspired by Saskatoon because it is the people I interact with within my world, the experiences I have, the newscasts I watch and the places I see in the city that are the base of my visual and idea memory bank. This memory bank is the foundation on which my art is created. I believe that you can be inspired by the smallest of things, even the dandelion, but you must be open to that inspiration when it happens. Inspiration is not often an exact moment but a collection of moments added together that brings me to a point of understanding and the need to share that understanding. The current transformation of all that happens in Saskatoon was key to me starting a new series called “annus mirabilis” that explores the transformation we have all gone through during the pandemic. I also created a miniature collage series “Fragile Times”, a little humourous, about the way our lives have changed during the pandemic.
“Toilet Paper...Really???”, Collage, 4” x 4.5”
Transformation is the deep time of things when life hangs like a question mark, fragile and always changing. A single moment in time can determine a life, but it can also take years and decades to form a life. Transformation is a process within human existence. This process allows us to live in the continuous present as we know we will not be the same person tomorrow that we were today. The arithmetic of life can be looked at as continuous subtraction or as continuous transformation. When parts of our life run thin like the transparent chrysalis of a butterfly there is room for transformation, change, growth and movement.
If you would like to learn about how living in Saskatoon inspires other artists, please follow these links for previous Q&A Saskatoon Artist Blogs: