Past Exhibit: The 215 (2021)

The 215
Johnny Bandura is a Coast Salish artist who has created a series of 215 portraits that were inspired by his own family. His paternal Grandmother, Marie, was born in New Westminster and as a very young girl, she was taken from her home and family and sent to the Kamloops Indian Residential School in the 1930s. In May 2021, when the news reported that the skeletal remains of 215 children were discovered on the grounds of the Kamloops Residential School, Johnny recognized that many of these lost 215 children could well have been his grandmother’s classmates and friends and he felt a very strong need to do something to honour these children.
So, Johnny began painting. He painted to work through the pain, grief, and sadness. The first
painting he completed was of a medicine woman, the second was of a hunter. These two portraits flowed easily from him, and he saw that they reflected the traditional way of life, before residential schools existed. But he couldn’t stop with these two portraits. He wanted to paint a portrait for each of the 215 children to reflect the life that they never that the chance to live. He painted the children as adults because he strongly felt they were speaking to him; he felt they wanted to be viewed as more than just children in uniforms. He wanted to let them grow up in his portraits and let them be something that they never got to be. He gave them lives that were both traditional as well as modern. He painted a Pow Wow Grass Dancer in traditional regalia and a Judge in courtroom robes. He painted doctors, nurses, Fancy Dancers, punk rockers, and hockey players.
He imagined lives for them that reflected all areas of society. He created an exhibit to show what they could have become.