Artemis Ravenna revisits the story of the Salem witch trials — to find her own healing

In her art blending morbidity and beauty, Ravenna opens up a historical story of persecution to question contemporary attitudes and cope with her own past.

Ravenna opens up a historical story of persecution to question contemporary attitudes and cope with her past

(Artemis Ravenna/Rob Shaw)

Artemis Ravenna muses, "We've got all this technology, but are we really that civil?" Her artistic interests are drawn from the morbid and macabre — she's always seeking the beauty in otherwise dark and unsettling things.

Ravenna's latest collaboration "Salem Burns" casts her as the protagonist, portraying an innocent woman being accused — in keeping with what happened in the colonial Salem, Massachusetts witch trial. Using her own intricate silversmithed pieces as well as her hand-embroidered and stitched wardrobe, she models her look for each photo. Next, she paints the background, completing an image that features all of her mixed art forms on one canvas.

Watch the video:

Artemis Ravenna's "Salem Burns"

4 years ago
Duration 3:36
To bring her arts together and deal with a difficult past, artist Artemis Ravenna creates a new project looking back to the Salem witch trials. Filmmaker: Kaio Kathriner

Ravenna notes, "Instead of holding torches, [the characters] are holding cell phones." With this insertion of modern technology, the artist is attempting to parallel society's tendencies to judge one another, relating the practice to that of a distant and darker time in our history. She explains, "Back then you could hide within a mob. Now the mob is online."

In this video, you'll meet Ravenna in her Vancouver workspace to get a glimpse into her dark world, deathly inspiration and artistic process. As a former youth in care, Artemis uses her artwork as a way to cope and survive mentally and physically — and, in the process, leave her troubled past behind.

She explains, "I decided that art was my best therapy and my best shot at having a bit of a life outside of the stereotypes that my family fell into." Ravenna says her artwork is a way for her to fight back, keep sober and keep out of trouble: "I'm attempting to move forward and turn that angry energy into something productive."

Follow Artemis Ravenna here.

(CBC Arts)
(Artemis Ravenna)
(CBC Arts)

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Kaio Kathriner is a Swiss-Canadian filmmaker whose short film and documentary work has most recently received “The Flaming Faun” award for Best of Switzerland – Audience Choice at Shnit Worldwide Shortfilmfestival 2019. From shooting at Everest Base Camp to NHL superstar Connor McDavid, his filmmaking adventures have landed him in Nepal, Cambodia, Peru and the US, as well as shooting for NBC Sports and NHL Studios.