Betty Albert has always wanted her art to bring joy and beauty to people.
The Cree artist, who now lives in Winnipeg, says she has been making art from a young age.
Albert was adopted and raised by French Canadian parents in northern Ontario, mainly in Kapuskasing and Smoky Falls.
She knew she had been adopted since she was young. She says she was curious about her birth parents but never tried to actively seek them out because she didn’t want to force herself on them.
“The way it turned out was wonderful. I’m happy, ”she said.
In his early thirties, Albert met his birth parents and sister.
It all started when she applied to college and needed her baptismal certificate. Albert was baptized twice and his godmother from the first time she was baptized turned out to be his friend’s aunt.
Events unfolded and Albert quickly learned of the existence of his birth mother, grandfather, sister and nieces and where they all lived.
Albert first met his mother on the phone on Albert’s birthday. A few days later, she met her mother and sister in person, spending the whole morning together, having lunch and getting to know each other.
“It was just wonderful,” she says. “It was a real big event for all our families. I met my grandmother – she was the nicest – it was a nice reunion.
Growing up, Albert was unaware of her Cree origins, but she was always fascinated by Indigenous ways of life and ceremonies. Her biological mother told Albert that she was Cree and that her father was a legendary Lindbergh ‘Lindy’ Louttit bush pilot.
It was Loutitt who encouraged Albert to become an artist. It was the best thing that had ever happened to her, she said.
This is how Wabimeguil Fine Art was born.
The name Wabimeguil, meaning white feather, was given to Albert by his father. She says she always tries to put white feathers in her paintings whenever she can.
“He was really relentless wanting me to pursue this career, so he helped me with that,” Albert says of his father. They got the materials they needed, and an artist in southern Ontario taught her how to use acrylic, mix and play with colors.
“I’m just having fun, watch where the colors go, then my imagination and my curiosity run wild. I see something in the colors and the way they landed and I produce something from there, ”she says.
She needed a theme in her work, something she was passionate about. As Albert is deeply attached to the ways and spirituality of women, she chose the moon as her theme. She also enjoys painting wild animals, mainly geese.
Albert’s intention has always been to bring beauty and joy to others.
“I’m grateful that I can do what I do, I’ve had this opportunity to create and I feel like it’s my job to bring as much beauty as possible into the lives of others,” she says. “I plan to live the rest of my life using this formula.”
Albert paints almost every day in his home studio in Winnipeg. She is going through what she calls a “fever” of painting. During her last painting session, which lasted more than a month and a half, she made almost 18 paintings.
Now she has a fever again and has six webs on the go. Albert’s daughter-in-law manages the orders. Once the paintings are finished, Albert ships them to her ex-husband Lawrence Martin in Cochrane, who has been selling his art for two decades. They have maintained an “excellent working relationship,” says Albert.
Albert also has a licensing agreement with the company Canadian Art Prints which sells various items with his art such as posters and canvases, mugs, puzzles, stationery and artistic cards.
Being bilingual, Albert says it is useful to know two official languages, but she wants to learn to speak Cree. Albert supports his son, who wants to learn the language, and his daughter-in-law, who is learning Cree.
“It’s important to have as many languages as possible,” she says.
Albert has also been dancing in the sun since 2001. The Sun Dance is a sacred ceremony where people dance for four days each year for four years while fasting on food and water. Now Albert goes to the ceremony as a former supporting the dancers and the people there.
The ceremony is an integral part of her family’s life, she says, and her sons are sun dancers as well.
“It’s very difficult,” Albert says of the ceremony. “You are in the sun and you are in your little nest for four days. It was a very difficult thing to do. But what happens to you during this ceremony is amazing … Once you have done the sun dance, there is nothing else you can do.
Albert was able to support his family through his art and it would not have been possible without the support of the Crees, she says.
“I have been very lucky. I have had such an amazing life, I am so blessed in so many ways, ”she said.