The Extermination is an example of Jane Ash Poitras at her most unrelenting. The inclusion of Frank Henderson’s drawing, done on lined ledger paper and with a schoolboy’s hand, brings the sense of the individual within a much broader cultural context. It is one thing to think of the losses of people through war and disease, of the extinction of entire species of animals, but when you are presented with layers upon layers of images of these bones – in direct juxtaposition to the boy’s drawing – the enormity of the effect of a wide-spread occurrence is brought forth most clearly through one individual. The drawing on the bottom and the Native motif on the top enclose the images of bones referencing both lost civilizations and individual lives. The bones are further entombed within the canvas by squares painted around them – suggesting their descent into a limitless space. The work successfully synthesizes beauty and pathos. (Exhibit Text by Virginia Eichhorn)


  • Title: The Extermination
  • Creator: Jane Ash Poitras
  • Creator Lifespan: 1951
  • Creator Nationality: Cree
  • Creator Gender: Female
  • Creator Birth Place: Fort Chipeywan, Alberta, Canada
  • Date: 1997
  • Physical Dimensions: w91.4 x h121.9 cm
  • Provenance: This acquisition was made possible with the generous support of the Louise Hawley Stone Charitable Trust Fund.
  • Type: Mixed media installation
  • Rights: Royal Ontario Museum
  • Medium: Mixed media
  • Measurement Depth: 4.7
  • Artist Biography: As one of Canada’s preeminent artists, Jane Ash Poitras is best known for her expressive mixed-media assemblages. Her works have explored the impact of colonialism, both past and present, as well as the political and spiritual strength of the Indigenous peoples of the Americas through juxtaposition of personal and historic imagery. Poitras is an erudite and scholarly woman having attained Bachelor Degrees in Science and Fine Arts, a Masters of Fine Arts, and two years of study in Pharmacology. These academic studies are rounded out through other equally important experiences. She meets regularly with Elders from many native communities to hear their stories and to learn from them. She travels often, allowing her to observe and partake in the rituals of various native cultures. By doing so, she brings a very humanist approach to her work. She isn’t just trying to give information – rather her work is about sharing knowledge. These paintings represent part of the artist’s ongoing investigation of traditional non-Western medicines and the ‘secrets’ of plants. These works incorporate knowledge that is taught and knowledge that is revealed, in combination with a powerful artistic vision.
  • Accession Number: 2008.114.1

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