On the Other Side

Melissa M Francis

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This collection of works includes a combination of paintings, murals, textile art, photography works, illustrations, text-based art, and mixed media works created throughout the past four years. Taking inspiration from my Mi’kmaq First Nations culture, while living and growing up in the small, beautiful province of Newfoundland; these pieces focus on themes of home, community, financial struggles, domestic violence towards Indigneous women, and issues that come with having a multi-cultural identity.

“Soaring Sun”
8ft x 8ft

Created originally in 2019, and hand painted, this design is currently displayed in Corner Brook, Newfoundland on the side of the Qalipu First Nation’s band office building. At the Corner Brook, location, this piece is displayed with a mirrored identical mural facing one another, creating a harmonized pair of eagels. In 2021, this piece was rendered digitally and re-printed for a mural festival and currently on display in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

“Soaring Sun” is one of my five original Mi’kmaq designs consisting of bright colors, bold lines, and distinct shapes. Inspired by the Indigenous history, stories, and artistic works I’ve grown to love about my heritage. To be gifted the Eagle feather in the Indigenous culture is a great honor as they are a symbol of respect, truth, natural power, wisdom, freedom, and all that is positive. The Eagle is a messenger to the Creator. It is believed that to wear or hold an Eagle feather causes the Creator to take notice of being honored in the most humble and highest way. The bright red throughout the piece is a symbol for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Girls and Women (MMIGW) Movement. This movement holds a special place within my heart as I know many women, including myself that have fell victim to abuse and fear. Keeping the spirit of the missing children in my painting, I have included the orange spots amongst the red, following with purple for a bold and bright contrast. The intended audience for this piece is everyone and everything. There is no specific aim of certain people for my artwork as I want all ages and ethnicities to be able to enjoy, observe, question, learn and feel when they look at one of my paintings.”

Doesn’t Make Me Any Less Indigenous

10ft x 3ft, sharpie on mixed media paper

Located on the 1st Floor at the Emily Carr University Campus

“This project focuses on issues, topics and themes relating to my Indigenous culture; things that I do not often use within my artwork, and everyday life involving my culture; and things I have experienced myself with being Indigenous on just one side of my family. I often avoid using political and serious topics within my artwork around the Mi’kmaq culture because I simply do not know as much about my Mi’kmaq culture as I would like. I find this a difficult when wanting to express myself through Indigenous artwork, but being afraid that someone will question certain aspects of my work, and I won’t be able to answer it, because I don’t have that knowledge.

Growing up, my father always taught me to “don’t take things too serious” and showed me how to laugh and find humor in things, as oppose to letting myself get offended or insulted. People are going to say things we don’t like, and do things we don’t like; but not everything needs to be analyzed and evaluated.

The feeling of having to “prove” that you are Indigenous is a bizarre feeling, which I’ve found challenging in this university setting. Wearing ribbon skirts, attending pow wows and ceremonies, practicing beadwork and other craft, are all great ways to pay tribute and keep cultures alive; but if someone doesn’t participate in these cultural practices, does it make them any less Indigenous than someone that does?”

Money IS Everything

20″ x 20″ masking tape on cardstock, on mixed media paper

“Bringing together the concept of working a full-time job or multiple full-time jobs in order to survive in society,
both physically and mentally, while focusing on how the object of ‘money’ circles around everything from our wants, to our needs. Using phrases that my father taught me as a child, to learn and appreciate money to give myself a better understanding of everything circles around money – while still keeping it child friendly and saying things like “money isn’t everything”, and “you can’t buy happiness”. These being true, but how happy would we be if we do not have a roof over our heads, clothes to keep us warm, or food and necessities needed for survival.

How does money effect our everyday life, and what would our everyday life be like if we did not have the money
that we have right now?

What if you couldn’t afford to stop and get that coffee every morning on your way to work?
What if you couldn’t afford to put gas in your car?
What if you couldn’t make your car payments?
How would you get to work?
How would you pay for your rent, phone bill and utilities?
How would you afford food?
If you got sick because of not eating, how would you afford a hospital bill, or medication?
What if you couldn’t afford to get to the hospital?”

Printed Paintings

Uncovering the Use of Mi’kmaq Heiroglyphics within 21st Century Lithographic Art

During the first three months of 2024, I spent a lot of my time researching the meaning behind hieroglyphics within the Mi’kmaq culture of Atlantic Canada, and how these are represented within today’s Indigenous artwork. Through readings, articles, and artist inspiration; I designed a series of 12″ x 16″ paintings created with linocut rubber blocks, acrylic and water colour paints.


“I created this design in 2018 with hopes to bring it to life on a large scale in the future. Being asked multiple times what this piece was named while painting it, my mind went blank. I finally decided to title this painting “Here to Stay” . Thinking of the Missing and Murder Indigenous Girls and Women movement, along with my own personal experiences, in my mind, this piece depicts the spirits of the women missing and no longer here with us – but they are. Their spirits will always surround us to keep us safe and watch over. My dad gave me the name ‘Crow Feather’ when I was younger for always finding crow feathers and being so excited about something so simple. Today, when I see a crow, I feel safe, I feel happy. It makes me think that someone is in a better place then they were before, but always here to stay.

Located in Botwood, Newfoundland (approx. 45ft x 40ft)

I also think of my friend, Kyle when I look at this painting. He lost his battle in April 2021 at such a young age and it has myself and many, many people at a loss. That being said we all know you’re free, happy and enjoying life again and always here with us. This piece carries a lot if emotion for myself and others I’ve came in contact with while painting.”


During my time at Emily Carr University, I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to attend all my courses remotely from my home in Newfoundland. This has given me the opportunity to share the love I have for my hometown, province and Atlantic Canada with those on the opposite side of the country. Newfoundland is known for many things, including its beautiful, rugged coastlines, friendly people, unique dialect, and an endless array of colourful houses, fishings boats and outport communities. Exploring areas from the most easternly point of North America in Cape Spear, to walking the same lands where vikings once roamed in L’anse Aux Meadows; Newfoundland is a hidden gem, that I’m proud share within my work as a visual artist.

Wildberries of Newfoundland

12″ x 16″ watercolour, pencil on mixed media paper

Any mummers ‘loud in?

Mummering is known as a traditional Christmastime activity in Newfoundland consisting of dressing up in unusual, colourful, or patterned clothing; changing the way one walks, acts or talks; and visiting friends and family members in disguise while singing holiday songs, and playing musical instruments. This tradition as been around for over 300 years, and is a reflection on the colourful, fun-loving spirit of the people in Newfoundland.

11″ x 14″ acrylic paint, and ink on mixed media paper

Through a Colourful Lens

The following works depcit scenes across Newfoundland from Coast to Coast. Done with acrylic paints, and ink pens on an range of canvases from mixed media and watercolour paper, to hand saws and circular saw blades. Some of these works include experiments with monochromatic painting, and working with a limited colour pallette. Created from a combination of imagination and reference photographs, to showcase the landscapes, horizon, clutter and calmness that makes this province home.

Light the Way

“My Dad was a lighthouse, and his watch is over. He was a beacon, showing me the direction to go and things to avoid; Lighthouses are built strong, meant to withstand any storm that comes their way.”

– Chris Peckford, April 2023

When looking at older structures and buildings throughout the province of Newfoundland, I’ve been drawn to lighthouses for as long as I can remember. When myself and my partner decide to go on road trips or smaller day hikes, we generally plan to visit a lighthouse or light station close
to where we are at the time. Growing up in the small community of Gander Bay in central Newfoundland, I spent a lot of time at my late
grandparents’ house. I was fortunate to be able to fill my childhood with those special memories and experience those moments. My grandparent’s
yard was always filled with the most beautiful and colourful flowers gardened by my Nan, along with endless woodwork designs and figures made
by my Pop. Many of these woodwork creations included garden-sized lighthouses that were 3-4 ft in height, with functioning lights, and painting
with bright colours.

Over the past several years, I tend to focus majority of my artwork on my Indigenous heritage on my father’s side of my family.One of the themes I
bring into my work is about having a multi-cultural identity of being both Mi’kmaq First Nations, and Caucasian. While incorporating themes of
growing up in Newfoundland throughout my work; I very seldomly bring aspects of that side of my personal life into my art. On top of my
grandfather, Wilbur Peckford being an amazing woodwork artist, his son (my uncle), David Peckford,was an incredible oil paint artist, installation
artist, and photographer. He’s been one of my biggest inspiration to get into the world of arts for as long as I can remember. After losing his battle
with cancer last year, my cousin Chris Peckford; who is also an illustrator and artist, wrote some beautiful words about how his father, my uncle,
was like a lighthouse.

This series of paintings was created with my late grandfather, and uncle in mind as not so much a tribute, but a celebration and interpretation of
how their presence and inspiration throughout my childhood and adult life has influenced my artwork. I was also thinking about how I could
incorporate lighthouses into my Mi’kmaq culture, and if there was any significant meaning of lighthouses withing First Nations culture. However,
I’ve come to the realization that they are a part of MY Indigenous culture. I think a part of having a multi-cultural identity, is recognizing both parts of my culture and understanding how they contribute to one another. I used to think I had to separate the two within my work, but I now understand that they are already combined where lighthouses are important to me; they are important to my entire culture, not just one part.


While keeping public art and large scale works the main focus throughout my career, I do like to experiment with other mediums and practices such as beadwork, embroidery, other traditional Indigenous crafts, digital art, book-making, and sculpture work. These practices teach me patience, discipline, and consistency; things I may not need to use when it comes to working on a larger scale.

Walk on the Rock

Personal Hiking Guide to 6 of the Newfoundland’s Most Beautiful Trails

Beading and Weaving

Various projects created with inspiration from my Inidigenous Mi’kmaq culture and made with an array of materials such as seed beads, cedar bark, deer hide, thread and fabric.

Soft and Serious

Diving into soft and miniature sculpture work for a couple courses, I was drawn to working with felt and how diverse it can be as a material. Along with felt, I found interest in working with paper as a structure tool, and how it can be manipulated into a variety of ways when it’s put into a number of different objects.

Curating Connections

A Conversation with Inuk Filmmaker Jessica Brown

Join me as I sit down to chat with producer, director, business owner and filmmaker, Jessica Brown. Jessica is the owner of Ujarak Media and the CEO and Founder of the Northern Film Initiative based in St.John’s, Newfoundland, Canada. While opening up about her passion for conversation, storytelling, and curating connections amongst Indigenous youth; Jessica shares her advice for Indigenous women, Indigenous peoples and anyone interested in the world of production and film.

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Melissa M Francis

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Melissa Francis is an Indigenous woman (29) from Gander Bay, Newfoundland (Ktaqmkuk) and Labrador, in Atlantic Canada of Mi’kmaw descent from the Qalipu First Nations Band. Her work primarily focuses on bright colours and bold designs inspired by her Mi’kmaq heritage and growing up in the colourful province of Newfoundland; along with works that focus on multi-cultural identity issues, and financial struggles within the province. Over the past several years, she has expanded her work into the world of mural arts after learning from, and working with mural artists from across the province, country, and the globe. She has taken on apprenticeships and installations in provinces on the west coast of Canada, along with taking her art into other mediums besides painting such as working with text, digital editing, beadwork and embroidery. Getting the opportunity to attend the Global Mural Conference and meeting artists worldwide in 2018, has given her confidence and the inspiration to continue a career path within the arts. Creating and sharing art with communities and people has always been one of her biggest passions.


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