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Influences run deep for Indigenous artist

Gene Boshkaykin is holding a one-man art show at Chartwell Glacier Ridge on Saturday afternoon.
Indigenous artist Gene Boshkaykin showcases one of his portraits.

THUNDER BAY – Gene Boshkaykin’s love of art started at a young age.

“I was inspired by my distant cousin, Sterling Johnson,” Boshkaykin said. “He was an up-and-coming artist that sadly passed away, but he was in the newspapers and kind of taking Ontario by storm.

“He was a huge inspiration to me back when I was eight years old, but my drawings were just stick figures at that point.

“Then when I got into junior high school and high school, that’s when people started noticing my art and some of my teachers said ‘Hey, these are some nice drawings, but don’t draw in your homework.’ After that, I got into art classes and I ended up majoring in art at university.”

Boshkaykin was born in Fort Frances and lived for a few years on Seine River First Nation before his family moved to Duluth. He was there for 20 years before moving back to Thunder Bay in 2002.

His journey and his family’s background are a big inspiration on his work, especially with his Indigenous drawings.

“That comes straight from the heart. It rolls right off my hand," he said.

“Now that I’m an adult, I’m more influenced by my culture and everything is about that. My mother tried to raise me in the traditional ways, but she could only do so much in the city. We went to the powwows, but we couldn’t do the sweat lodges and things like that.”

Boshkaykin’s work is starting to gain notice, and not just in Thunder Bay.

Thanks to some viral social media posts from other people, he’s been able to ship his work to art enthusiasts across North America.

“I also shipped a couple of pieces to Germany, but that was a little bit on the costly side,” Boshkaykin said with a laugh.

“My stuff going viral has been pretty crazy. One of those happened during COVID when everyone was staying home. I went on Facebook one day and all of a sudden there were 50,000 likes for just one post.

“I was totally surprised by it and it felt like I was floating on air.”

When asked what his long-term goals are, Boshkaykin says he would like to become a professional artist at some point.

“Everything’s been super positive as of late,” he said.

“I’ve been sober for nearly 11 years and everything just keeps going upwards.”

Boshkaykin will be showing off his work on Saturday during an art show at Chartwell Glacier Ridge. The show is free for the public to attend and gets underway at 2 p.m.

“This is actually my first show in quite a while,” Boshkaykin said. “I’d love for everyone to come out and say hello.”

More information on Boshkaykin's artwork can be found on his Facebook page.

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