"I've always been really interested in Indigenous cultures and the way first people lived on and with the land," she said,
That admiration led Harrison to find inspiration in historic photographs of prominent individuals taken at the turn of the 20th century with Cree, Peigan, Stoney, Blood and Blackfoot First Nations.
But to paint on canvas the faces she admired required she find a way to translate her abstract landscape style into portraiture.
In painting and presenting the faces of Canada's first people, Canmore painter LL Harrison is hoping to honour their legacy, and perhaps open the door between local non-native and native communities just a touch further.
"Keepers of the Land", Harrison's first solo Canmore show and first foray into portraiture, features 20 large-format paintings of Indigenous Chiefs, along with a few individuals, such as an Inuit mother and child, whom she simply found iabsolutely stunning.
LL Harrison poses with Indigenous local dancers Daryl Kootenay (L) and Toby Ear at the opening of Harrison's exhibition at Canmore's Avens gallery Tuesday afternoon (July 1, 2008).
KEEPERS OF THE LAND
and Spiritual Leaders
As a result, the first painting - the Inuit mother and child - is much more abstract, with stronger lines and chunks of colour, than Adolf Hungrywolf, which is softer, more subtle and realistic.
Most of Harrison's subjects are historic, such as Crowfoot, the famed Blackfoot Confederacy chief, who lived in that transitional period of history that saw control of the land pass from First Nations to the fledgling Canadian government.
written by Craig Douce
Rocky Mountain Outlook June 2008
It's a challenge she embraced willingly, but one that took some steps to reach.
"How can I take my style and turn it into something that is going to be something honouring and beautiful and different?" she said, adding the only way to answer that question was to begin experimenting.
From that, Harrison found a style that maintained her abstraction and use of rich blocks of colour, but it is a style that evolved between the first painting and the last ones in the series.