Basketry entwined with sweet grass, beaded moccasins, and symbolic imagery that embodies the ways of our Aboriginal ancestors, these are just a few of the things that you will see at the home of artist Gina Brooks. Gina is a traditional Maliseet artist from the St. Mary’s First Nation. Her work captures the stories of Aboriginal people and their connection to the land.
“Most of my art comes from a different place, it comes from a place of knowledge,” Gina said. “It is important for me to be mindful of where the art comes from. I have to recognize that the spirits of our ancestors are an important part of our daily lives. My art is a reflection of that and how the land is to us as well. The land provides for us.”
As a young child, Gina was influenced by her humble upbringing. Her parents and grandparents depended on the land, basketry, and art to provide for their families. She taught herself to weave by watching her father and grandfather. She continued training with local artists, elders in the community and received formal training at the University of Maine.
“We survived on very little, but we survived and had good lives,” Gina said. “My father and grandfather taught us well about the land so a lot of my art comes from that place. Most of the things I have learned on my own but the basis of it comes from my father’s love to build and to create art.”
“I am inspired by being Maliseet, being an Indian, we own a responsibility to that,” Gina said. “I am inspired because it provides me comfort and joy, and I think life is too fast in many ways. I’ve done many things but never really focused full-time on my art or just lived my art. I decided recently that is what I am going to do and I am inspired that I can be that.”
Gina uses several types of mediums in her artwork including lithographs, painting, pen & ink, basket making, and Wampum jewelry making. She uses these techniques together with the Wabanki symbology to share the knowledge and stories of her ancestors.
Her journey as an artist has taught her that there are different types of art and that art is a form of expression. This has allowed her to talk freely about her own art and its symbology. It has also allowed her to reach a defining moment in her life where she has finally embraced her spirituality.
“Art allowed me to open myself up to that connection,” Gina said. “I now feel I am living a passionate life and that has inspired me to keep moving forward.
Gina now works full-time on her art and has been featured in art shows and museums all over the province.
“Art makes people happy, they enjoy it and see beauty,” Gina said. “It provides me freedom and joy.”
She offered some words of wisdom to other Aboriginal artists.
“Do your own art, really connect with the land. We own a responsibility no matter if you’re an artist or no matter what kind of artist you are. As an Aboriginal you own a responsibility to that. Support each other as artists and as people. Our world is not in the place of scarcity, we have so much, we really do. It doesn’t take a lot to have a good life. We just have to be kind and connected to each other.”