Shirley Moorhouse was born in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Nunatsiavut, NL, and has lived in Alberta, England and Germany. She currently resides in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. She is a multifaceted heritage crafts artisan, fabric artist, printmaker and painter . It is her one-of-a-kind wall hangings, however, that drew attention to her artistic practices. These artworks incorporate embroidery, beading, hides, furs, wool, feathers and non-traditional found objects into the design .
From a young age, Moorhouse observed her parents and grandparents creating clothing, objects and household items of both function and beauty . She started sewing when she was very young but it wasn’t until she attended Labrador College for an Applied Arts Diploma in Heritage Crafts that she began to pursue other artistic interests. Since then, she has continued to teach throughout the years . She also finds inspiration in other artists, such as Mattiusi Iyaituk . As she has stated, her inspiration also comes from within, from her cultural traditions and from the world around her . Her wall hangings have grown to be a unique art form among Inuit artists.
Wall hangings are produced across the Canadian Arctic, but Moorhouse’s works, reminiscent of paintings and sculptures yet unique in their spellbinding creations of moody dreamlike images, are in a class of their own. She attaches interesting and unique elements to her wall hangings that create tactility and texture. She adds beadwork, shells, nylon, lace, plastic, earring pieces or anything that has a nice shape or eye-catching quality to it . Because her wall hangings take more time, effort, material and intent, they tend to focus on more serious and introspective topics of discussion than her paintings . Her work explores themes of Inuit identity, the importance of cultural continuity, the ties of women and family, materiality and the environment .
Her featured work, Goose Reflections (2010), is a strong example of many of these concepts at play: the black stroud background with her embroidery, beadwork and use of found objects sets the scene for a contemplative and moody art piece. It feels almost as if you are stepping into space, with galaxies, stars and reflections echoing on the edges of the wall hanging, the goose and its morphing reflection in the water drawing attention. Mountains of a bright yet eerie colour palette can be seen in the background. Everywhere on the wall hanging are reflections, made more tactile with the use of beads, feathers and embroidery. This piece demonstrates Moorhouse’s ability to use materials and colour to create an introspective and thoughtful mood.
Since 1996, Moorhouse has exhibited nationally and internationally in many solo and group exhibitions. She has served on the board of directors for the NunaKatiget Inuit Community Corporation in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, as well as the board of the Inuit Art Foundation intermittently between 1995 and 2011 . She has exhibited across Canada, including: House of Commons, Parliament Hill in Ottawa, ON (2005); the Hanover World Expo in Germany (2000); the Walter Phillips Gallery in Banff, AB (2007); Carleton University Art Gallery in Ottawa, ON (2007); and A Space in Toronto, ON (2015) . Most recently, her work was a part of the 2018 exhibition SakKijâjuk: Art and Craft from Nunatsiavut. Her textile works are included in public and private collections across Canada.
1995: Applied Arts Diploma in Heritage Crafts from Labrador College; valedictorian of her graduating class.
2003: Bachelor of Arts at Carleton University in Ottawa, ON.