By Craig Couillard
It started with a dream of a flying bear soaring between two realms — and from that vision came another stunning piece by Indigenous artist Neepin Auger.
The daughter of the late Calgary Stampede Hall of Fame artist Dale Auger, Neepin has been honing her craft since an early age. Over the years, she has dabbled in different mediums but has found her niche with acrylic on canvas in Native spirituality art.
“My Dad was my biggest influence, my biggest mentor,” she says. The accomplished elder passed in 2008 at 50.
It was hard for a young Neepin to have such a famous and well-respected artist as a father. “I was always drawing or painting from a very early age. But it was difficult to be in his shadow at times, and I questioned whether I could be an artist myself.”
Being invited to the 2021 Calgary Stampede was the turning point for Neepin. “I sold all my paintings and actually cried when I sold that last one. I knew then that I had respectfully come out from under my Dad’s shadow and emerged into my own light. I felt I could be my own artist.”
Her paintings are filled with symbolism and spirituality, offering a unique and stunning contrast in the often-traditional Western art world. “I find inspiration from my culture, my heritage,” explains Neepin. “Often, I start with colours, and my paintings evolve from there.”
Many of her current customers were patrons of her father as they desire to have artwork from both father and daughter. The many dots in her paintings carry over from her Dad’s work. They represent spirits in the Native universe.
Education was a big emphasis in the Auger household. Dale had a PhD in Education, and her mother, Grace Auger, received her Bachelor of Law degree while raising three children. She is currently a Provincial Court Judge.
“School was not a great experience for me, so my parents homeschooled us. They wanted to teach us basic school subjects plus traditional native values like hunting, fishing, and ceremonies. That has had a significant influence on my art.”
Neepin is now her own force for change in education as the Vice-Principal at Many Horses High School on the Tsuut’ina Nation southwest of Calgary. “Historically, education was not designed for Indigenous children. Reconciliation is allowing us to have an impact on school strategies and curriculum. Big changes are happening, which are creating new pathways for our students. It’s amazing.”
“Reconciliation has also created new awareness for Indigenous art and artists,” she continued. “It’s a way to share stories that resonate with all cultures. It has helped young artists feel safe to express themselves — to take more risks.”
Creating some 20 paintings a year, when does she have time to paint with a busy life as a principal, wife, mother and daughter? “Being a night hawk helps me be at my most creative. Painting is like meditation for me. It’s where I find my peace.”
And people are noticing. She was named Best New Artist at the 2022 Calgary Stampede.
Neepin Auger is definitely a name to remember. For more, visit NeepinAuger.com.