AMY HOOK THERRIEN – Acclaimed ABENAKI WATERCOLOR ARTIST – PART 2

Sylvan Linck ‘24.5 – Middlebury College

FYSE 1570: Native Presence and Performance – 13 May 2021

Due to the length of this narrative, it will be introduced in two parts over a period of two weeks. This is part two.

Therrien also illustrated the book My Bring Up, which was a memoir written by her mother Shirly Hook and published in 2019. Therrien worked closely with her mother in order to create from memory the most accurate portrayals of different aspects of Hook’s life, beginning in her early life growing up in Chelsea, Vermont. The book covers some of the ways in which Hook’s Abenaki heritage influenced her family’s life, writing about “the traditions that helped her family put food on the table, the legacy of the eugenics program in Vermont, and the ties of love and respect that bind neighbor to neighbor.” 

Image of book cover for My Bring Up by Shirly Hook.
Book available for purchase on Amazon

Therrien “read her book over and over again” and tried her best to “come up with the right image to accompany each story.” Sometimes she chose to illustrate bigger, more important seeming things, but occasionally chose to illustrate an object from the story that might seem small and insignificant at first. She made this choice to display how some seemingly meaningless things could actually be very important and influential in shaping her mother’s life. She believes that illustrating My Bring Up “was another way to have a conversation with her about our family history.” When creating the illustrations, her process was to sketch images and then report back to her mother for feedback. When they would back together to discuss the illustrations “more stories and information came up,” and the artwork and knowledge behind it would expand. She found this a very insightful project. 

Image of Thorned Blue Bird by Amy Hook-Therrien.
Thorned Blue Bird

Therrien has been involved with the Vermont Abenaki Artist Association (VAAA) for many years. She has been a VAAA Juried Artist since 2014 and is now serving as a council member of the organization. Therrien was honored to receive the title of VAAA Artist of the Year in 2019, and in our interview stated that “as a contemporary artist, it’s nice that there is a place for me among such talented traditional artists.” She believes that being involved with the VAAA has “helped her find her place in the Abenaki community,” through her ability to connect with people through her art. In the words of Linda Tuhiwai Smith in her book Decolonizing Methodologies, “connecting is related to issues of identity and place, to spiritual relationships and community well-being.” Art is one of many ways for individuals to find their place in a community.

Sources Cited

Therrien believes that the goal of the VAAA is to “educate through art,” and that through the traditional and contemporary art created by the members [the VAAA] can educate communities about the Abenaki People.” She believes that communities are often greatly influenced and shaped by art, and that “art shows the identity of people and cultures.” Creating and sharing art is also a powerful way to celebrate Native strength and resilience throughout history, as well as “foster inventions and discoveries, facilitate simple improvements to people’s lives and uplift [peoples] spirits.” The art that Amy Hook Therrien and other Abenaki and Native artists create in ways that connect communities, educate people about Native culture, and through pieces such as An Aerial View of N’dakinna, inspire viewers to explore different perspectives. 

“About.” Therrien, March 29, 2021. https://amyhooktherrien.com/about/. 

Hook-Therrien, Amy. “Illustrating My Bring Up.” Therrien, January 6, 2020. https://amyhooktherrien.com/2020/01/06/illustrating-my-bring-up/. 

Tuhiwai Smith, Linda. “Twenty-Five Indigenous Projects.” Essay. In Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples, 143–64. Dunedin, N.Z.: Otago University Press, 2012. 

“Amy Hook Therrien.” Vermont Abenaki Artists Association, 2021. https://abenakiart.org/blog9/amy-hook/. 

Sylvan, Linck. Amy Hook Therrien. Other, 2021. 

“Team Members.” Vermont Abenaki Artist Association, 2019. abenakiart.org/home/team_members. 

Woa. “An Interview with Amy Hook-Therrien, VT Abenaki Artist Association Artist of the Year 2019.” Vimeo, May 4, 2021. https://vimeo.com/467453764.