Student graces St. Paul's with six-foot-tall artwork

This art piece may be a tad too large to hang above your bed.Melissa Johns standing beside dream catcher art piece on wall

SOPOR, meaning “a deep sleep,” is a massive dream catcher made of tulle, rope, twine, PVC tubing, rocks and shells. The artist is Melissa Johns, an Honours Arts and Business Co-op student majoring in Studio Arts

For Melissa, creating SOPOR was an opportunity to feel connected to her community and to celebrate her Mohawk and Upper Cayuga heritage. At the same time, this piece allowed her to explore deeper questions of identity, tradition and belonging as a native person in contemporary Canadian society.

“The work revolved around cultural disconnect and anxiety, and I discovered that's actually a really common experience for other students from aboriginal backgrounds."

Primarily a digital artist, Melissa has been moving to pieces that include an interactive dimension.

“I really like pieces that facilitate some kind of personal connection among viewers whether with each other or the work”.

Although SOPOR now hangs on a wall, its creation was a performance art piece and represented Melissa's first foray into this genre of art. 

“I began the performance by laying in front of the suspended frame, and then wove the rope into a web and decorated it with the rocks and shells."

After an hour and a half of careful work, Melissa laid down under the six-foot piece to complete the performance.

Currently in her final year here at the University of Waterloo, Melissa rarely has to hunt for inspiration when it comes to displaying her creativity. 

“I find myself musing a lot on the beauty of flawed things, in intimate and emotive expression between people, and esoteric ritual. Though I work in quite a few different media, a common thread between many of my works is a kind of rooted sentimentality”.

SOPOR appeared in the Waterloo Chronicle in November and the artist was recently featured in ArtsOnline published by the UWaterloo Faculty of Arts

Check out Melissa’s personal website to learn more about her artistic process and to view her other work. 

To view SOPOR in person, visit the Aboriginal Education Centre at St. Paul’s University College. The Centre invites students and community members to join for soup and bannock every Thursday from noon to 1pm and traditional crafting from 1-3pm. 

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