March 2, 2018
Art student pays tribute to victims of violence
Video of live art exhibit launches on International Women’s Day
They are stories about girls in the woods, and growing up, Jaycee Gouchey heard too many of them.
In Alberta’s Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation, where she’s from, Jaycee was regularly told about sisters, daughters, mothers or aunts who had gone missing, many of them found dead later, often in the woods.
“When I was little, everywhere I went, I was constantly being told, ‘Be careful!’” says the Art Fundamentals student, who lived on the reserve until she was in Grade 1.
The number of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada is estimated at 1,200.
In an effort to send a clear message to stop the violence, Jaycee, a special effects artist who has in the past turned her two young children into zombies on Halloween, recently made herself up to look like a victim of violence for a live art exhibit.
For three hours, Jaycee sat in silence in a hallway at Seneca@York Campus, holding a sign that read “Am I Next.” Her face had cuts and bruises, her lips bloody and nails dirty and broken.
Her project was supported by First Peoples@Seneca and filmed. A short video about it is launched today on Seneca’s social media channels.
“I wanted to symbolize the silence that Indigenous women go through—how we are never heard,” Jaycee says. “I saw a lot of looks and stares during those three hours. There were a lot of emotional facial expressions, including sadness, shock and even anger.”
Jaycee has felt all of those emotions on a personal level. A few years ago, Bella Laboucan-McLean, a member of Jaycee’s reserve from Sturgeon Lake, fell 31 storeys to her death from a condo in Toronto. The case was deemed "suspicious" and remains open.
Late last year, a friend’s sister went missing in Jaycee’s home province of Alberta. That girl was found dead a week later.
“Her name was Amy Boskoyous,” Jaycee says.
Amy was 22 years old.
“I was thinking about her the whole time I was sitting in silence,” Jaycee says. “Being an Indigenous woman is kind of a slippery slope. You have to be careful who you talk to, who you hang out with.”
That being said, that’s a mentality Jaycee wants to help change through her art.
“I’m doing this for all our lost and stolen sisters, and my daughter is a motivation,” she says. “I don't want her to grow up scared. I don’t want her to grow up the way I did. I grew up not trusting people outside of my community.”
Thanks to the staff at First Peoples@Seneca who encouraged her to go through with her live art exhibit, Jaycee says she is now even more inspired to become a creative advocate for the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
“The video ignited something in me, that I’m creative and I can create things,” she says. “I believe we can be heard more if we can be more creative and inspire the new generation.”