As a youth, Alan Syliboy believed that native art was generic. He found painting difficult and painful because he was unsure of his identity, but his confidence grew in 1972 when he studied privately with Shirley Bear. He then attended the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, where, 25 years later, he was invited to sit on the Board of Governors.
Alan’s work has been honored with numerous awards. In 1999, he was commissioned to design a gold coin for the Royal Canadian Mint. In 2010 he was selected to participate in the Vancouver 2010 Venues Aboriginal Art Program at the 2010 Winter Olympics. Also in 2010, he presented a portrait of Grand Chief Membertou to Queen Elizabeth II during her visit to Halifax, NS.
Alan has shown his work in group and solo exhibits around the world. He continues to live and work in Millbrook, NS, where he was born and raised.
I see making art as a way of organizing chaos. Sometimes within the chaos of making a painting, a symbol in the shape of a moose or a caribou will walk through my consciousness in a form that resembles an ancient petroglyph. These ancient petroglyphs, carved by my ancestors on the walls of caves, were their way to capture and respect the spirit of the subject. When I paint these images, I feel I am channeling a way to bring their spirits back into our consciousness. Today, most ancient petroglyphs are no longer visible in their original environments, but I believe the earth has a memory of the spirits they contained. My ancestors have provided me with a spiritual global navigation system, and I like to believe that what I do helps to keep the spirits evolving.