Cynthia Landry

Painting a Path Forward: Cynthia Landry on the Art of Living

"Art has always been a very healthy way for me to just be myself," explains artist Cynthia Landry. She is from Deh Gáh Got'îê First Nation, near Fort Providence, and she sells her creations in boutiques. When she shared her art in a local gallery, Chief Joachim Bonnetrouge of her nation acknowledged her work and asked to collaborate with her on a book project, something that brought her a lot of joy.

"Art was a way for me to express myself."

Since she was a child, Landry has been drawing and creating art. Her parents encouraged her art and creativity which contributed to it becoming a lifelong practice. Making art was how she expressed her thoughts and feelings but she never dreamed that being an artist could become a career. Feeling like she didn’t have a way with words, art is how she brought her ideas into the world. In high school, when she was taking art classes, she found a deeper connection with the creative process and her art and used it to express herself even more fully.

Thinking about youth leaving their small communities to pursue post secondary studies, she thinks about the privilege they have of being out on the land and having land based education in their home communities. Transitioning from that reality to a town or city is an experience she describes as culture shock and "daunting."  What she hopes they will keep in mind is that there is help and support in the schools where they will be studying and also Indigenous spaces where they can thrive. “Don't be afraid to ask for help, because it's always there,” she affirms.

Over the course of her life, she’s faced challenges she’s had to overcome, even within her own community. Where she lives, she finds that she  has a hard time finding quality art supplies and what is available can be expensive. To bridge this gap, she has spent time experimenting with natural pigments from things she finds in her environment, like berries and leaves, even making her own canvases using elements from nature. Using what she has and having fun along the way, her creativity isn’t just displayed in her art’s content but also in how it is constructed and realized.

Illustration by Shaikara David

If she could share a message with her younger self, it would be to be more aware of her surroundings and to take everything in. When she went to school, she was exposed to a lot of intergenerational trauma and found she wasn’t speaking up about her thoughts and feelings as a result. Landry would tell her younger self to keep making art because there was a time that she stopped, until her studies in high school "drew" her back in.

As she pursues her path as an artist, she is also looking to create balance in her life. After growing up in a traditional, cultural household, harvesting is important for her mental wellness, gathering medicinal plants and berries. It’s a practice that helps her practice patience, strengthening her mind-body connection and also letting her express her thoughts and feelings in what she does, just like she does in her art.

Nature inspires her work so she spends a lot of time doing things outdoors, going on walks. “Life itself is inspiring, and it's something to not take for granted,” she shares, reflecting on the importance of her practice of gratitude and her traditional values. She hopes to project the things she has learned and the stories she’s been told into her art work so she can pass them on, as she has been taught to do.

In conclusion, she hopes to encourage more people to make art. “I think anyone can make art if they just practice, if they enjoy it, and stick to it. Over time, through practice, it will end up being something that you can be proud to look back on the process and the progress that you've made and looking at where you will be in the's a fun way to express yourself… and it can be a good mental health practice as well,” Landry encourages.

Art has always been a very healthy way for Cynthia Landry to just be herself, yet becoming an artist was a dream she never imagined. Using the earthly gifts in her home community, she shares her own gift of creativity with the world. Making her own paints, canvas and way in the world as a creative person, she’s experimenting with what works and finding joy in journey, hoping others fall along and find their own (painted) path.

Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.

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Key Parts

  • Career
  • Identity
    First Nations
  • Province/Territory
    Northwest Territories
  • Date
    December 1, 2023
  • PSI
    No items found.
  • Discussion Guide
    create to learn discuss

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