To list all the pursuits and accomplishments of Squamish’s Monique Hurteau would take more words than fill this newspaper.
Hurteau has a master of business administration degree, is a consultant, instructor and facilitator and visual artist. She writes for film and TV and was a stand up comedian – and this is just a synopsis of her resume. She also happens to be Corner Gas actor Lorne Cardinal’s spouse.
The Squamish Chief sat down with Hurteau over coffee to discuss Cardinal’s influence, her art and her ancestry.
Q: Do you mind me asking about your life with Lorne? I don’t want to take away from who you are in your own right.
A: I don’t mind. I love him so much (Hurteau’s eyes fill with tears). I wouldn’t be doing most of the things I am doing right now if wasn’t for him. He is just amazing.
One minute we are talking about our feelings as artists and the challenges and the rejection that comes with it. I had a few rejections in the last few days that kind of hurt, and on the flip side I just sold a painting for almost $10,000, and we can talk about that. And he is so well read, he opens my world up. But at the same time, he is the guy that if something goes down in an ally – he will defend. He also has this great sense of humour – oh how much we laugh!
Q: But being married to a film guy can’t be as fun as it might seem. There’s a lot of time when he is off shooting for TV or film for long stretches. How is that for you?
A: Often we go away on projects together. We did a documentary together and then we worked on a show that we are still waiting to hear about that we were shooting in the marshes around Winnipeg. I was writing and he was directing. We try to design things that we can work together on. But also he will go off and shoot. We try to make as many choices as possible for that not to be the norm. Squamish is not a bad place to be left, though.
There’s such a healing energy and the calmness here. I feel like we almost live in a retreat sometimes: that is what Squamish feels like. I have an art studio in my home, I paint and I can look out my window at Black Tusk. That is not too shabby.
Q: Let’s talk about your artwork. My favourite painting of yours is Treaty Repairman, which is an acrylic on canvas that’s part of your Diatribe series. Can you speak to that one?
A: I really like to let people think what it means for themselves. But, I think it’s a subtle reminder that treaties were made with warriors. It also reminded me of the saying “speak no evil,” but it is also a guy standing with an axe. The image sort of came to me, as these things sometimes do. It is the forth one in the Diatribe series. That series has a backdrop suggestive of the Canadian Flag, it offers a visual discourse on the challenging relationships in “Kanata” (Iroquoian word for village from which Canada is derived) and hints at indigenous reciprocity.
Q: Are you First Nations yourself?
A: I am French, Cree, Métis and more. If am made to choose only one box within narrowly defined governmental terms, I am non-status First Nations and/or Métis. My mom and grandma are status First Nations. Through them, my genealogy traces back to the original Red River Settlement and Métis Scrip (In the late 1800s Métis heads of households in Saskatchewan were offered land in the form of certificates, or scrip). From what I’ve been told, my great grandfather gave up his treaty rights to take Métis scrip. It was a very ingenious way for the government to extinguish long term rights – here’s a parcel, you are starving, we will give you some land and you will sell it and then we are done.
My grandma is from Muskowekwan First Nation, bordering Lestock, Saskatchewan where Chief Reginald Bellerose is her great nephew. A few years ago I first met Lorne’s long-time family friends, Assembly of First Nation’s National Chief Perry Bellegarde and wife Valerie Galley. Perry and I discovered that his mom and my grandma are first cousins. My mom has done a lot of genealogical research and we have a great deal of French ancestry and she’s discovered interesting stories of our ancestors supporting the Riel rebellion as well as potential ties to explorers like Alexander Ross.
Q: What else would you like to say?
A: When looking at a piece of artwork or looking at the state of affairs: Everyone has the right to their own opinions, but hopefully people can question their feelings and opinions and beliefs and not take everyone else’s as gospel. I wish that people could be more questioning and curious about things and try to stay open.
Hurteau is one of 14 B.C. artists in the Prince George’s Two Rivers Gallery “AND...” exhibition. Check it out here: www.tworiversgallery.ca/experience-art/current-exhibitions/. For more of her work go to www.moniquehurteau.com or www.facebook.com/moniquehurteau.