Saskatoon, Treaty 6: Cynthia

(Photo by Jennifer Sparrowhawk, Introduction by Dave Stonehouse)

(Photo by Jennifer Sparrowhawk, Introduction by Dave Stonehouse)

Cynthia Blanchette enters the room like Cosmo Kramer but dances like Elaine Benes. She is a dynamic, kooky character that marches to the beat of her own drum. She can scare strangers! She shrugs off useless stuff like normative behavior and confidently does her own thing. While being brash, she still carries class and sophistication. I honestly don’t know what to expect with Cynthia. Sometimes I wonder if her life is all one long performance piece.

Cynthia is also a terrible yet effective researcher. She has a way of ignoring most of the relevant information while gleaning all the bits of absurd and peculiar nuggets. Which is maybe a metaphor for her life. Cynthia is strange but true, shrugging off normal stuff while embracing the whacky and wonderful. To have her as a friend is a delight. My mind sees CYNTHIA in loud all caps with a flood of memories of her being her. People ask is she for real? Yes, yes she is.

KC: What kinds of projects are you involved in right now?  

CB:  At the forefront is a collaborative installation ‘Came From Water’ through our artist collective Bridges Art Movement (BAM). It is showing in Halifax at the Anna Leonowens Gallery and in Saskatoon at the Gordon Snelgrove Gallery July 9-20th. BAM has been working to further its reach across Canada, creating new networks for Saskatchewan artists in other provinces, and this project is connecting artists from the prairies to the maritimes. The central theme of this project is Ancient Environments, how we all came to be from water.  I have made multiple pairs of beach flip-flops with oceanic environments on the upper surface for this installation.

I have also been working with our collective BAM to find a new gallery space and create affordable studios in Saskatoon.    

I am the head of the painting department for the EMMA International Collaboration this year, which invites one-hundred artists and craft makers from around the world to the Ness Creek Cultural Site to exchange ideas/skills and create art collaboratively. I am busy collecting and purchasing all kinds of painting materials to create a well-stocked painting area and will be supporting artists with their painting quandaries.

The final big project I have been working on is moving to Europe to persue my MFA. I have currently accepted an offer from the Glasgow School of Art and am working on scholarship applications. There are surprisingly few scholarships, so I’ve started planning fundraising parties and other creative ways of raising my own funds.  I am also working on getting dual citizenship with the UK which will hopefully create more opportunities in the future for schooling and collaborative BAM shows.

KC: What's your day job? What do you like about it? What's challenging?

CB: I have been a registered massage therapist by day for the last sixteen years.  It is a great job in that I am able to assist people in having a pain-free life, I am self-employed and make my own schedule.  It is hard physical labour, many massage therapists do not last long in the profession because their hands/wrists wear out. Due to this I work three days a week, make enough to pay my bills and still have plenty of time to commit to my art practice.

KC: What is important to you?

CB: Hmmm...donkeys, rats, vintage lamps, rabbits, shoes, wool sweaters, bees, tartan, Persian and Moroccan carpets, friends, philodendrons, independence, studio space, alone time, quiet, sleep, dandy lions and art. The environment and living creatures are probably the two things that are closest to my heart.  I grew up on an organic farm here in Saskatchewan when organic farming was not really a thing in Canada.  The animals were always the most important thing to me on the farm, and I have always taken issue with humans feeling superior or more intelligent than other living creatures.

KC: How do you think your identity has helped/hindered you?

CB: Well as a white, heterosexual female living in Canada, I am sure I have had it pretty well.  Being poor is an ongoing concern, worrying about my future and how I will survive old age in poverty. Also, being in a country that is so grotesquely racist towards indigenous people is hard. Knowing what we are still perpetuating, and what my ancestors must have been involved in makes me sick with sadness.

KC: What do you like most/least about Saskatoon?

CB: I like the size and accessibility of Saskatoon. I love that a few friends and I were able to start an artist collective here and that the entire city and artist community rallied around us in support. It is surprising and heartwarming because other cities’ art scenes can be difficult to access. I love the gorgeous prairie landscape and the harshness of our climate.

I dislike the fact that this city seems to be so strongly conservative - the idea that those who “have”, deserve and those who do not, do not deserve. I believe our recycling program is a complete sham (when the world is banning the use of plastic bags Saskatoon decides to ban recycling of plastic bags). I wish Saskatoon would be on the forefront of creating an environmentally conscious city, but instead it seems the majority are stubbornly fighting for potash, oil, gas, uranium, and more parking lots. I have a hard time with how Canada’s mentality/identity is so strongly rooted in selling resources to the foreign market. It makes me sad to think that we will not stop until there is little-to-nothing left of Canada’s landscape.

KC: What is your impression of Regina?

CB: I don’t visit much, I guess I don’t get reasons to go very often.  I think Regina has more unique character homes, the people seem slightly more rigid sometimes.  I feel like I usually get myself into trouble in Regina socially...there is possibly less appreciation for my oddness there.    

KC: How do you survive the winters?

CB: I sleep a lot and usually fall into a rather dark depression. I like the cold and snow but the darkness is probably the problem, with a dose of lethargy from poor diet, and refusing to take Vitamin D (stubbornly, for no real reason).

KC: What is your most marked characteristic?  

CB: I do not indulge in other people's bullshit, I tell it like I see it.  I am extremely detail-oriented and I am not big on self-editing.

Links: ‘Came from Water’ upcoming shows