‘Together as one identity’: Kristy North Peigan on her blend of traditional and modern art
Mae Edillon, Contributor
Kristy North Peigan is a Blackfoot mixed media artist, oil painter, digital artist, and cosplayer, based in Calgary. Peigan draws inspiration both from her background and her love of superheroes, anime and video games. I was able to have a sit down with her to talk about her life, her passions and her work.
Peigan is also this year’s Calgary Public Library’s Indigenous Artist in Residence. Peigan will be hosting art talks and shows at the Crowfoot and Shawnessy locations. There will be one final exhibit at the Central Library from May 6 to 15.
We touched on her unique blend of traditional and digital media, including her paintings for Nitssaakita’paispinnaan: We are Still in Control, a travelling art exhibition back in 2019. Three Blackfoot artists, including Peigan, each made six works of art which reflect the exhibit’s theme. Her pieces are digital paintings printed on canvas and done over with oil paints. I asked what inspired that approach as part of her art style.
“The We Are Still In Control exhibit gave me an opportunity to explore actually doing a digital painting to a certain point, getting that printed onto canvas, and then finishing the painting with oils. It really created a cool juxtaposition of digital and traditional mediums with a kind of modern or futuristic take on Indigenous subject matter,” she said.
The blending of the two visual cues beautifully complimented each other to show that Indigenous culture is very much alive in the present and for future generations. To her, the typical imagery of what is considered Indigenous isn’t really representative of herself or her culture today.
“We’ve all seen the ‘war Chiefs’ on horses, the ‘Indian princesses,’ we’ve seen all the sepia tones. For me, it seems very dated[…] I have all my history, and my culture, and my protocols to draw on, and that I get to live that every day. I’m very lucky that I get to have that, but it didn’t necessarily reflect on who I am as a modern woman and in this century,” said Peigan.
As she creates original professional art, she also makes digital fanart of her favourite superheroes, video games and anime characters. Her love for nerd culture is another facet of her interests and identity. This also reflects what she wanted to see in the media.
“I kinda draw the things that I wish I saw when I was younger, which was more Indigenized pop culture references. […] I’m a child of the digital age, I grew up with the internet. […] I really love technology and really trying to stay with it as much as possible, because it’s just another artistic tool for me,” Peigan said.
Peigan’s love for cosplay started as early as childhood; she dresses up in costume to become the heroes she looked up to. Her cosplay really went into full swing in her years at college, as she found a community of fans and built up self-confidence. This allowed her to reconcile all aspects of her as a creative person.
“I wanted to emulate the things I felt like I wanted to adopt, in terms of shaping my personality as a young adult.[…] I’m trying to take that confidence that I had as a cosplayer, that I took years to build, and I installed that, hilariously enough, into my artist identity. Putting myself out there, as just myself as a whole, has been a little bit of a personal challenge as I don’t have a cosplay to hide behind, where someone automatically already loves Wonder Woman, they’re, of course, gonna treat me really well. That’s part of the validation thing, people just really enjoying me and who I am without the costume on,” Peigan said.
I asked her about how she views the many creative outlets she uses, as they seemed independent of each other. Peigan believes that these different forms of her creative expression aren’t separate since they’re all equal parts of her. She felt that if they weren’t together as one identity, that she was being disingenuous to herself.
“At the end of the day, it’s not like I turn being Indigenous on and off. It’s not like I turn being an artist on and off. It was in the last year or so I just took both of those things and just mashed them together in this chaotic little medley. And it brought me here. I’ve never received more validation than I have in the last few months over my artist practice, my cosplay, and who I am as a person, because I decided to stop being so shy and withdrawn, and I actually put myself out there,” Peigan said.
This coming April, Peigan will be making appearances at Calgary’s Comic and Entertainment Expo and will be a cosplay guest at Otafest in May.