Daniel Stanley is a homeless man. But he’s not in any apparent hurry to find a home. We sat on the grass together along the Railtown strip, with his two friends Curtis and Devon. Friends, I’m guessing, he helps support.
I had met him earlier. He had called me over to see a piece of art. We squatted beside the sidewalk. Devon, who had been carrying it, unfolded and lifted off the red-plaid blanket. A three-foot frame surrounded a smallish portrait, painted on foil–of what was a shining totem…a communion of nature…a heritage.
This time when I met him he had a half dozen or so of larger, unframed works, in a plastic Save-On bag. We sat on the ground and he told me the story of each painting.
Daniel uses a collection of fine-tipped pens to fill heavy, semi-gloss paper with micro-dots. That’s his method. His art, like most aboriginal art, is rich in symbolism. He explains patiently, pointing to the circle of grizzly cubs in one, to a wolf swirling out of itself in another, and to the profile of a chief in yet another.
One captures me more than the others. An extravagant eagle towers, a rose is superimposed…there’s a cleansing sweat lodge beneath, beside which rises the pipe’s nourishing smoke of peace. Everything is in motion and enjoined, loose and lively. To the left, a spiraled circle of beads proves the interconnection of all people groups. Daniel tells me the painting is called "The beginning of Love."
He speaks to me as a friend. I’ve known him for 15 minutes. His hair, pulled into a ponytail, heavy eyes set in full, worn, features, a quiet voice… I feel the elder in him as he speaks. He is younger than me.
There’s a transaction to be held. We barter and trade. He’s given me a lens and patient counsel in the ways of his culture–some First Nations pre-school. And picture to remember–Love’s beginning. I’ve given him some time and money.
Daniel is from the Shell Lake reserve in Saskatchewan which would make him, if my research is right, part of the Ahtahkakoop First Nations. But he roams western Canada. He paints what he sees, putting it together with what he remembers.