Monday, June 30, 2008

Red Lake Woodland Arts Festival: A Tribute to Norval Morrisseau and the Woodland Artists in 4 DAYS!

July 4th-6th, 2008
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Woodland Art In Red Lake - Tell Us Your Story
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Gunter Seitz and Reggie Bacon
/Reggie has been interviewing Mr. Seitz, who was Norval Morrisseau’s partner at the mill in Cochenour, for the Woodland Arts project/
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Red Lake Regional Heritage Centre is preparing for the very first Woodland Arts Festival, which is happening in Red Lake this weekend. This festival, a tribute to Norval Morrisseau and the Woodland Artists, will recognize the significant contribution that Anishinaabe artists from this region have made to Northwestern Ontario and beyond, nationally and internationally. Organized by the Red Lake Regional Heritage Centre in collaboration with local Aboriginal organizations and artists, the festival will take visitors on a special journey as they discover the untold story of Norval Morrisseau’s life in this community.

Also honoured at the festival will be the members of the Triple K Co-operative, an Aboriginal print shop that operated in Red Lake between 1973 and 1980. "Triple K" artists included Goyce Kakegamic, Joshim Kakegamic, Saul Williams, and Barry and Paddy Peters. Carl Ray, a well-known artist from Sandy Lake who preceded the Triple K Co-operatove and who is considered a trail-blazer in the Woodland Arts movement, will also be recognized during the festival.

Part of the Heritage Centre’s preparation for the Arts Festival is to gather stories and photographs about this time in our region’s history from local people who were around during the 1960s and 1970s when Woodland School Arts movement blossomed in our corner of the world. Spearheading this research for the Heritage Centre is Christine Penner Polle, education coordinator for the museum. Assisting her as part of his co-op work placement at the Heritage Centre is Reggie Bacon, a grade 12 student at Red Lake District High School. Reggie, who travels to Red Lake from Wabauskang First Nation every day for school, says that he didn’t know anything about Woodland Art before he started working at the museum. However, Reggie does remember reading "Legends of My People, The Great Ojibway", written and illustrated by Norval Morrisseau, while he was in junior high school in Ear Falls. At the same time, he read "Sacred Legends of the Sandy Lake Cree", co-authored and illustrated by Carl Ray.

"Instead of doing the work that my teacher gave me, I studied up on my people," Reggie says. But despite having read their books, Reggie didn't realize until now who Carl Ray and Norval Morrisseau were, or their important contributions to this area and to the art world. "I didn't know about any of this 'til I started doing this co-op. I just think it's a story that needs to be told. Most of the people don't realize that it was these guys that put Red Lake on the map, not just mining."

Heritage Centre Director/Curator Michèle Alderton agrees, "Back in the early 1960s Norval Morrisseau had a vision of making Red Lake a centre for Aboriginal art, and I hope that this festival is the beginning of a revival of his vision for our region, particularly for the aboriginal people whose rich heritage this is."

Do you have memories you would like to share? Did you know any of the artists personally? Do you have a story about a piece of Woodland art that you own? How have the artists, or their art, impacted you? Do you have any photos? The Heritage Centre would like to hear from you! Please contact Christine Penner Polle at the Red Lake Heritage Centre, at 807-727-3006 or by email at cppolle@goredlake.com. Also, you may contact the Blog Master of the NORVAL MORRISSEAU BLOG at spiritwalker2008@gmail.com.
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For more information about the Red Lake Woodland Arts Festival go to: www.redlakemuseum.com.
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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Red Lake Woodland Arts Festival: A Tribute to Norval Morrisseau and the Woodland Artists in 5 DAYS!

July 4th-6th, 2008
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Honouring Francis Kagige (b. 1929)
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"Nanabush", © Francis Kagige
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Francis Kagige, an Ojibwa artist, was born in 1929, at Wikwemikong Unceded First Nation on Manitoulin Island, Ontario. A self-trained artist, Kagige’s early work shows abstracted, stylized native symbols. Francis Kagige, like Daphne Odjig, is of the first generation of Manitoulin artists whose work, through individual vision (and influenced by the style of Norval Morrisseau) founded the Woodland or Legend painting style: hard-edged, concerned with the relationship of people to nature (often shown without any people in their pictures), and frequently depicting an impression that traditional stories have made on the artist.
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Francis Kagige's works are represented, among the others, in the following collections: Canadian Museum of Civilization, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Institute of Alaska Native Arts, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Royal Ontairio Museum and Thunder Bay Art Gallery.
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Notes: In 1964 the Federal Government of Canada appointed the Quebec author, Yves Theriault, as the first Director of Cultural Affairs for the Department of Indian Affairs. Theriault chose Tom Peltier, an Ojibwe writer from Wikwemikong, Manitoulin Island, as his chief assistant. This energetic team already had made their plans and the day Expo '67 was announced to the people of Canada, they received approval for the "Indians of Canada Pavilion". They called upon the assistance of Tom Hill, a Seneca from the Six Nations Reserve at Brantford, Ontario; Alex Janvier, a Chippewyan (Athapaskan) from Edmonton, Alberta; George Clutesi, a West Coast Native; Gerald Tailfeathers, a Blood Indian from Alberta and Jackson Beardy, a Cree from Manitoba, Further contributions were made by Norval Morrisseau, Carl Ray and Francis Kagige. The cast was complete for the first international show which is now a part of history. Some observers think that Expo '67 was the birth of a viable Native art movement in Canada. Tom Hill said, "We did not recognize it at the time, but it was a pinnacle experience. For the first time Native Canadian painters felt a sense of community in their common destiny and what is also important, the public recognized it too."
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/An excerpt from: "The Sound of the Drum: THE SACRED ART OF THE ANISHNABEC" by Mary E. (Beth) Southcott; Published by The Boston Mills Press; ISBN: 0-919822-64-9/
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For more information about the Red Lake Woodland Arts Festival go to: www.redlakemuseum.com.
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* The painting in this posting: "Nanabush", © Francis Kagige /An illustration for "The Adventures of Nanabush: Ojibway Indian Stories" by Doubleday Canada Limited, Toronto; ISBN: 0-385-14249-8/

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Red Lake Woodland Arts Festival: A Tribute to Norval Morrisseau and the Woodland Artists in 6 DAYS!

July 4th-6th, 2008
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Honouring Clemence Wescoupe (b. 1951)
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"Brother Bear Spirit", © Clemence Wescoupe
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Clemence Wescoupe (Salteaux) was born in 1951 on the Long Plains Indian Reserve in Southern Manitoba. He began to paint in 1971 and immediately achieved national recognition with his simplicity of line and startling use of colour and space. He began to study the work of Jackson Beardy (Cree) and was also influenced by Benjamin Chee Chee and Norval Morrisseau (both Ojibway). As his style developed, he attained a sensitive command of negative space. Clemence Wescoupe's art is full of sensitivity and power, much concerned with animal spirits, spiritual guardianship and shamanic transformations, yet many of its images are familiar and its appeal is immediate and profound. Clemence Wescoupe through his great talent and unique style has inspired many artists and instilled wonder in many art collectors.
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For more information about the Red Lake Woodland Arts Festival go to: www.redlakemuseum.com.
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* The image in this posting: "Brother Bear Spirit", 24"x20", © 1985 Clemence Wescoupe /Private Collection/

Friday, June 27, 2008

Red Lake Woodland Arts Festival: A Tribute to Norval Morrisseau and the Woodland Artists in 7 DAYS!

July 4th-6th, 2008
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Honouring Joshim Kakegamic (1952-1993)
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"Owl Spirit", © Joshim Kakegamic
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Born in 1952 in Sandy Lake, Joshim Kakegamic enjoyed early and extensive contact with brother-in-law Norval Morrisseau and with Carl Ray. Joshim Kakegamic studied with Ray and Morrisseau during their tour of northern reserves. Joshim Kakegamic had his first group show in 1969 and presented a solo workshop at Fanshawe College. In 1973 Joshim Kakegamic and his brothers Goyce and Henry started the Triple K Co-operative, a silkscreen operation based in Red Lake. Triple K Co-operative artists included Norval Morrisseau, Goyce Kakegamic, Joshim Kakegamic, Saul Williams, Barry Peters and Paddy Peters. Triple K Co-operative became the largest and most successful Aboriginal economic development initiative in Northwestern Ontario, providing an infrastructure that resulted in many artists having their work exhibited and acquired by prominent art galleries and museums in Canada and around the world.
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By 1975 Joshim Kakegamic was being shown at Aggregation Gallery in Toronto, which still handled Carl Ray’s work. While Joshim’s predecessors invented and refined the pictographic style, Joshim Kakegamic was weaned on it, and rapidly perfected the vocabulary. He was a painter of technical virtuosity and an innovator in the field of Indian print production. Joshim Kakegamic died tragically when his snowmobile fell through the ice while he was trying to save life of another man in 1993.
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For more information about the Triple K Co-operative go to WIKIPEDIA.
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For more information about the Red Lake Woodland Arts Festival go to: www.redlakemuseum.com.
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* The image in this posting: "Owl Spirit", © Joshim Kakegamic /Private Collection/

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Red Lake Woodland Arts Festival: A Tribute to Norval Morrisseau and the Woodland Artists in 8 DAYS!

July 4th-6th, 2008
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Presenter/Artist: Gordon Fiddler (b. 1955)
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"The Spirit of Heart and Courage", © Gordon Fiddler
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The Heritage Centre is proud to introduce Gordon Fiddler, another talented Anishinaabe artist who will be participating in the Woodland Arts Festival in July. Gordon was born in Cochenour in 1955. When he was a baby, his father, Samuel, originally from Sandy Lake First Nation, was tragically killed when his boat hit a rock as he was on his way home from Cochenour to McKenzie Island one night. He had has just left the Cochenour Hospital after being treated for an injury at the Cochenour Mine.

Without any means to support herself, Gordon’s mother moved to Red Lake where she had two more children. The family was very poor, and Gordon remembers stealing food from grocery stores and raiding people’s gardens to feed his sisters when he was only seven years old. He was placed in a foster home for a while, and sent to the McIntosh Residential School near Vermillion Bay for a few years. He later moved with his mother to Wawa then to Elliot Lake, where he now lives with his wife Barbara and their two sons.

Gordon started painting when he was eight, and made his first sale at ten. His first jobs were painting signs and posters for grocery stores. Encouraged by an elementary school teacher who recognized his talent, he continued painting throughout his teen and adult years. He credits this teacher, who kept encouraging him over the years, for giving him the confidence to pursue an art career. Eventually, his art evolved to painting traditional Anishinaabe images, and today he makes a comfortable living as a commercial artist. His designs can be found on clothing, blankets, glass etchings, and many different types of arts and crafts. He also paints stunning canvasses that he sells to Canadian and foreign collectors.

Inspired by Carl Ray, Gordon Fiddler studied with artists like Cecil Youngfox, Mel Medahbee and many others. Gordon has had exhibitions in prestigious venues such as the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa, the Canadian Gallery in Vancouver, and at various private and public art galleries across the country. His art has also been shown at the Skydome in Toronto, as well as in Germany, Australia and Scotland.

Gordon has never lived in Sandy Lake, but he has visited the community a few times. He still has many relatives there and they often refer to him as “the missing Fiddler”. Gordon Fiddler, who will be accompanied by his family, says he is very excited about participating in the Festival and having the opportunity to reconnect with his family. “Nothing would make me happier than to come back to my home territory and show what I’ve been doing for the last 35 years”, he says. Gordon will conduct workshops for young people on the basics of becoming a successful artist, including how to read contracts, and how royalties and commissions work. He will bring examples of his work for sale and display.

Gordon says his future plan is to teach young people all aspects of Traditional Aboriginal Arts.
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For more information about the Red Lake Woodland Arts Festival go to: www.redlakemuseum.com.
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* The image in this posting: "The Spirit of Heart and Courage", © Gordon Fiddler /Private Collection/

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Red Lake Woodland Arts Festival: A Tribute to Norval Morrisseau and the Woodland Artists in 9 DAYS!

July 4th-6th, 2008
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Honouring Daphne Odjig (b. 1919)
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"Potawatomi, © Daphne Odjig
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Born and raised in the Wikwemikong Unceded First Nation on Manitoulin Island, Daphne Odjig has strong traditional roots in her Native culture (she is Potawatomi, Odawa, and English) and is proud of the artistic tradition of her ancestors. Her grandfather, Jonas Odjig, carved tombstones for the nearby church and later sketched and painted church landscapes. Her father painted war scenes and portraits of soldiers from the Great War, and was a talented musician.
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Growing up on a dairy farm, Daphne was no stranger to hard work. Nevertheless, she and her three siblings found time to enjoy the local swimming hole in the summers and local storytelling in the winters. Unfortunately, at age 13, a bout of rheumatic fever cut short her school attendance -- an event that frustrated her because she had plans of becoming a schoolteacher. Later, Daphne treasured the convalescent time she spent at home because it had provided the opportunity to become very close to her mother and grandfather.
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As it happened, these two important people in her life died when she was 18 years old. Soon after, Daphne left the "Wiki" reserve for small-town Ontario, that is, Parry Sound, where she experienced racial discrimination for the first time. It was here that she and her siblings used the surname "Fisher," the English translation of "Odjig," as a response to the prejudice.
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During the early years of World War II, Daphne moved to Toronto for job opportunities. Here, she met her first husband, Paul Somerville, whose military post took them to the West Coast. It was not until their two sons were attending school that Daphne began to take her painting seriously.
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Daphne has said that she "was born with a paintbrush in her hand" and that, as a child, she lived for Friday art class at school. Her early paintings and sketches were in the realist style, mostly as a result of encouragement from teachers to create "realistic" paintings. Daphne felt that these instructions were rigid however, and she wished to paint how she "felt."
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As an adult, Daphne did initially paint in a realist style, but she soon experimented with other styles as well. A self-taught artist, she often visited art galleries and borrowed art books from libraries, studying various artists and their work. Vanderburgh and Southcott recap Daphne's exploration of art styles as follows: "Daphne had taught herself to paint realism; next she explored cubism and then abstract expressionism. She moved through impressionism and cloissonnism. She was influenced by the Northwest Coast art and the developing Anishnabe style" (A Paintbrush in My Hand, p 88).
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Daphne's work is often associated with the New Woodland school. This style was originally attributed to Norval Morrisseau, who was the first to defy cultural restrictions by taking the sacred pictography of the Ojibwa-Midewewin belief system outside Native communities. The style is described as having several characteristics: a predominant black form line, an undifferentiated black background, pure unmixed colors, a system of x-ray views and the system of interconnecting lines of sacred pictographs that is known as "linear determinatives" (Odjig : the Art of Daphne Odjig, 1960-2000, p. 16).
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Bob Boyer notes that "Daphne often claims that she is not part of the New Woodland school" in that her works incorporated the importance of womanhood and sense of family, while others in the New Woodland group "concerned themselves with a spiritual quest" (Odjig : the Art of Daphne Odjig, 1960-2000, p. 12). Her work also differed in that she was influenced by Picasso's cubism, but within an Aboriginal context. She was attracted to the cubist style because of its "disregard for perspectival space, its skewing of the elements and relationships of reality, and its central compositional structure" (Odjig : the Art of Daphne Odjig, 1960-2000, p. 17).
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In the early 1960s, Aboriginal communities across Canada were undergoing a cultural revival. At about this time, Daphne was encouraged by her sister-in-law to paint scenes from Manitoulin mythology. She also wrote and illustrated a series of children's books on legends about Nanabush, a trickster figure in Ojibwa culture. This work gave Daphne a focus and later, the confidence to paint for an audience. However, a major setback occurred: in 1960, her husband, Paul Somerville, died in an automobile accident. Daphne grieved this loss by working the strawberry farm she and her husband had built together and painting in the evenings.
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In 1962, Daphne re-married. Her second husband is Chester Beavon. Beavon's community development work took the couple to northern Manitoba in the mid-1960s. Here, Daphne learned of the plight of the displaced Easterville Cree, whose lands were flooded by man-made dams. "She felt the need to respond to a community searching for its roots and contemporary relevance" (Odjig : the Art of Daphne Odjig, 1960-2000, p. 15). This response was manifested in a series of ink drawings about life on the reserve, with images of subsistence activities.
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In 1972, Odjig's art took her to Winnipeg and a pivotal exhibition, "Treaty Numbers 23, 287 and 1171," at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. The exhibition featured her work, along with the work of Jackson Beardy and Alex Janvier. This was the first time Native artists were featured in a Canadian public art gallery, rather than a museum. Regarding the significance of the exhibition, Carol Podedworny notes: "That the contemporary productions of living Canadian Native artists would remain relegated to museums of anthropology and ethnography well into the 1980s confirms the colonialist mentality that has surrounded the exhibition and interpretation of Native art in Canada for nearly sixty years" (Odjig : the Art of Daphne Odjig, 1960-2000, p. 14). This statement gives an idea of the struggle Native artists faced in their attempts to be recognized in the mainstream art world. In addition, Daphne was the only Native woman artist facing this struggle in the early years, a situation made all the more difficult because she was a self-taught artist and, as a result, not respected at that time.
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Winnipeg was, nonetheless, something of a watershed for Daphne. It was here, in 1973, that she co-founded the Professional Native Indian Artists Association (colloquially called the "Indian Group of Seven"). This group included Daphne, Jackson Beardy, Carl Ray, Joseph Sanchez, Eddy Cobiness, Norval Morrisseau and Alex Janvier. As is evident, Daphne was the first and only woman to be a part of this group. Later, in 1974, Daphne and Chester opened the Warehouse Gallery in Winnipeg, a huge venture that provided support for emerging Native artists.
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In 1976, the Beavons moved to their current home in Anglemont, British Columbia, a peaceful spot near Lake Shuswap. It was here that the ideas coalesced for a huge mural, commissioned by the Museum of Man in Ottawa (now, the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau). While these ideas were taking shape, "Daphne realized she was going to portray history from the Native point of view. She would bring into this history her own reactions as a Native person -- her emotions of horror, pain, anger and hope" (A Paintbrush in My Hand, p. 85). The four-part mural, entitled The Indian in Transition (1978), was 8' x 27' and, as Podedworny writes, provided Daphne with the "…opportunity to be bolder, to express emotions with no inhibition … [Daphne considered this piece] a personal achievement related to her admiration of Picasso's freedom in expressing human truths. She thinks that her public had not been ready, to this point, for her to depict human agony on canvas" (Odjig : the Art of Daphne Odjig, 1960-2000, p. 20).
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Since her work on this mural, Daphne has continued to paint without inhibition. Podedworny describes Odjig's 1970s work as political, and uses the metaphor of cultural anthems to describe her work from the 1980s and 1990s (Odjig : the Art of Daphne Odjig, 1960-2000, p. 14). Odjig's work, Podedworny argues, has evolved to a more lyrical emphasis and "the paintings seem to reflect a peace and tranquility not evident in Daphne's political oeuvre" (Odjig : the Art of Daphne Odjig, 1960-2000, p. 24).
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Source:
Text: "Native-Online"; Image: "EGODesign.ca" - Canada's first bilingual webzine dedicated to global design
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For more information about the Red Lake Woodland Arts Festival go to: www.redlakemuseum.com.
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* The image in this posting: "Potawatomi", © Daphne Odjig /Private Collection/

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Red Lake Woodland Arts Festival: A Tribute to Norval Morrisseau and the Woodland Artists in 10 DAYS!

July 4th-6th, 2008
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Honouring Isaac Bignell (1958-1995)
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"Buffalo and Eagle Spirit", © Isaac Bignell
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Self taught artist Isaac Bignell was a Cree painter, born on The Pas reserve, 400 miles north of Winnipeg, Manitoba. During his short life he lived in Winnipeg, Minneapolis and Vancouver. Even influenced by Benjamin Chee Chee, Isaac eventually developed his own style of sponge painting, creating wildlife images distinguished by flowing lines. His work is very popular, and many of his images have been made into prints and cards. Although he died at the peak of his career at the age of 37, Isaac's presence lives on through well known first nations artists Russel Noganosh, who apprenticed under Isaac in 1979, and Garnet Tobacco, who includes Isaac as one of his artistic influences.
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"My art is strongly influenced by the traditions of my people. I was brought up to live off the land from an early age. Hunting and trapping, living in harmony with the earth has taught me to respect the animals and the spirit and power of nature. I hoop dance and sing Pow Wows to maintain my cultural heritage. Through art and dancing I attempt to influence native people to continue their cultural ways; the gift that was given to us by the Great Spirit."
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Isaac Bignell
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Source of image: Turtle Island Gallery
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For more information about the Red Lake Woodland Arts Festival go to: www.redlakemuseum.com.
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* The image in this posting: "Buffalo and Eagle Spirit", 22.5"x30", © Isaac Bignell /Private Collection/

Monday, June 23, 2008

Red Lake Woodland Arts Festival: A Tribute to Norval Morrisseau and the Woodland Artists in 11 DAYS!

July 4th-6th, 2008
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Honouring Jackson Beardy (1944-1984)
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"Thunder Dancer" - "Metamorphosis" - "Thunderbird"
© Jackson Beardy
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INSPIRED STORYTELLER & RESPECTED ARTIST
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Jackson Beardy's life began on July 24, 1944 on Garden Hill First Nation, an Oji-Cree community on the shores of Island Lake in northeastern Manitoba. Forty years later, on Dec. 7, 1984, it came to an end.
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Almost 25 years have passed since Beardy's death, more than half a lifetime for the young artist who used his talents to reconnect to his Native identity and later to inspire and encourage other young Native men and women to express themselves through art.
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The fifth child of 13 born to John Beardy and Dinah Monias, Jackson was given a special task at a very young age. He would live with his grandmother, his father's mother, and learn from her the traditional stories of the Cree people. But his education in legend and tradition was cut short when he turned seven and government policy of the time demanded he go away to residential school. Beardy attended Portage Indian school in Portage la Prairie, 50 km west of Winnipeg and hundreds of kilometres away from home.
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He spoke no English when he arrived at residential school-only Cree and that was forbidden, as were many of the traditions that had up to now been a way of life for Beardy and his classmates. Beardy learned to speak, read and write English, but the more he learned to meet the demands placed on him to adopt white ways, the more disconnected he became to his Native heritage and the things his grandmother had worked so hard to instill in him.
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But while his residential school experiences slowly chipped away at Beardy's connection to his culture, they also opened up doors for the young student that allowed him to hone his artistic talents.
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Beardy attended the Technical Vocational school in Winnipeg from 1963 to 1964, where he studied commercial art. He finished the course, but without experience, couldn't find work. He began to create art, reconnecting with the stories his grandmother had passed on to him in his childhood, combining them with the art techniques he had learned, capturing the resulting mix in paint on canvas. He worked for a time in the display department of the Simpson Sears department store in Winnipeg, but lost the job when health problems began to plague him. Beardy had begun to drink after leaving residential school-one of the ways he tried to cope with the feelings of isolation that he felt-and he soon developed ulcers. Problems related to his drinking would plague him for another decade, until he gave up alcohol in 1974. The ulcers would continue to be a problem for the remainder of his life.
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Beardy was hospitalized for the ulcers and after his release, he decided to return home to Garden Hill reserve. His homecoming wasn't all he had hoped it would be. He was seen more as an outsider than as a member of the community returned, a view that was strengthened by the art he produced. The images Beardy created in his work were taken from oral tradition, and many people were not receptive about capturing them in a visual form.
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Beardy had his first art exhibit in 1965 at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. In 1966 he took some art classes at the School of Fine Arts at the University of Manitoba. In 1967 he went to Montreal as a consultant for the Canadian Indian Pavilion at Expo '67. He received commissions to produce works of art to commemorate both Canada's centennial in 1967 and Manitoba's centennial in 1970.
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It was in 1970 when one event presented Beardy with both a great accomplishment and a bitter disappointment, and illustrated the struggle Native artists faced in their attempts to be recognized and respected.
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A grand gala was held at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa to commemorate Manitoba's centennial, and Beardy's work was to be featured. Beardy was invited to attend the gala, but when he arrived with his family, security guards wouldn't let him in.
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One of the highlights of Beardy's artistic career was his involvement in the exhibition Treaty Numbers 23, 287 and 1171, in which his work was featured alongside that of Daphne Odjig and Alex Janvier. The exhibit, held at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in 1972, marked a movement toward having the work of Native artists showcased in art galleries rather than museums, a sign that their art was finally making the jump from being appreciated for its anthropological merit to being viewed as true art. That same year, Beardy was awarded the Canadian Centennial Medal.
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Beardy was one member of a group of Native artists who formed the Professional Native Indian Artists Association, better known as the "Indian Group of Seven." Beardy, along with fellow group members Daphne Odjig, Alex Janvier, Norval Morrisseau, Carl Ray, Joseph Sanchez and Eddy Cobiness, worked to promote Native control of Native art and to change the way the world looked at Native art, shifting the emphasis from the "Nativeness" of the art to it's artistic merits.Like other members of the group, Beardy's work is categorized as being part of the New Woodland school, a style of art characterized by its use of black outlining, blocks of pure, undiluted color and X-ray views.
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Beardy drew inspiration from much of his artwork from the stories of his people, translating myths and legends from the oral tradition into the visual, presenting his interpretation of the stories through paintings and prints, rendering the images on canvas, birchbark or beaver skins. While capturing the essence of the stories he had learned as a young child and relearned as an adult, Beardy's work reflected traditional Native viewpoints about the interconnectedness of the universe.
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While primarily an artist, Beardy spent much of his time in the role of teacher, something that came naturally to him because at the heart of it all he was a storyteller. He taught art at Brandon University and at the University of Manitoba, and also worked with younger students in schools across Winnipeg.
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He worked as art advisor and cultural consultant to the Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature and Brandon University's Department of Native Studies, and was involved in a number of organizations that advocated on behalf of artists.
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Beardy also turned his talents to the world of publishing, illustrating a number of books including When the Morning Stars Sang Together written by John Morgan, Almighty Voice by Leonard Peterson, Ojibway Heritage by Basil Johnston and the Winter 1983 issue of The Canadian Journal of Native Studies.
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In the early 1980s, Beardy was living in Ottawa, acting as art advisor and cultural consultant to the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, which took up much of the time he would have normally been spending on his art. In 1984, he left Ottawa and returned home to Winnipeg, where he began work on a new series of prints. In mid-November, Beardy suffered a heart attack. He recovered, but an infection set in a few weeks later and he died.
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A memorial service was held for Beardy in the Blue Room of the Manitoba legislature where the lieutenant governor holds ceremonies and hosts receptions-the first time such a service had ever been held in that location. Joining Beardy's family in mourning their loss were Elders, Native leaders, and politicians from all three levels of government who came to remember and pay tribute to the artist and the man.
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The year after Beardy's death, the graphics arts class at R.B. Russell Vocational high school in Winnipeg created a lasting monument to his work, recreating "Peace and Harmony", a piece he had been working on just before his death, on the exterior walls of the Indian Family Centre on Selkirk Avenue. Jackson had planned to create the mural himself, but following his death the task of finishing the project fell to other hands.
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Ceryl Petten
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Source:
Text: AMMSA - Aboriginal Multi-Media Society;
Images: EA Studios of Jasper, Alberta.
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For more information about Jackson Beardy go to WIKIPEDIA.
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For more information about the Red Lake Woodland Arts Festival go to: www.redlakemuseum.com.
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* The images in this posting: A triptych made up of "Thunder Dancer," "Metamorphosis" and "Thunderbird."; © Jackson Beardy

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Red Lake Woodland Arts Festival: A Tribute to Norval Morrisseau and the Woodland Artists in 12 DAYS!

July 4th-6th, 2008
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Honouring Leland Bell BEBAMINOJMAT (b. 1953)
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"Gathering", © Leland Bell BEBAMINOJMAT

Leland Bell was born in 1953 at Wikwemikong Unceded First Nation on Manitoulin Island, Ontario (Note: the name Wikwemikong means "bay of beavers"); he was raised there and in Toronto and graduated from Laurentian University in Sudbury where he majored in Native Studies. His spirit name is Bebaminojmat, he is of the Loon Clan, and is a “second degree” member of the Three Fires Midewiwin society. An Ojibwa-Odawa, Bell prefers to identify himself as an Anishinabe, an Ojibwa word for North America meaning literally “from whence man was lowered”. He “firmly believes in the notion that Anishinabe culture contains all the necessary paradigms of knowledge to nurture the survival of the Anishinabe people". As an artist, he believes that the way that “colours, lines, shapes and compositions are perceived” can be understood in the context of that culture.
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Leland Bell's wonderful paintings frequently use stylized human figures sharing the affinity of family or friends, often depicting imagery of nurturing, sharing, learning, peace and serenity.
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He was influenced in his youth through teachings, ceremonies, and art instruction at Cultural Arts Camps on Manitoulin Island, and it was there that his distinctive style first emerged. Leland has been painting professionally since 1976 and in addition to his painting devotes much of his creative energy to writing and music. He has collaborated often with Shirley Chee Choo and her husband Blake Debassige on writing music for Shirley’s film projects.
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Bell has been part of Group Exhibitions in Ontario, British Columbia and Switzerland. He has had, literally, dozens of commissions, chiefly from organizations in Ontario.

"My art comes from the Three Fires (or Midewiwin) tradition. That is what I believe in. I came to this belief through a dream I had about peace. It was a deeply spiritual experience. After consulting with Elders I began trying to build my sense of spirituality. Then I needed to have an Indian name. I consulted with some elders and asked them to help me find my name. I was given the name Bebaminojmat which, loosely translated, means, 'when you go around you talk about good things'. Then I fasted to prepare my body and my mind to talk to the Creator. This is where my art comes from.

"The circle is central to our tradition. The Creator sits in the East. Yellow is the colour for that direction; the sacred herb is tobacco; the animal is the eagle. Red is the colour of the South which is the place of all young life, of the little animals; the sacred plant is cedar. The West is the place of life; it's colour is black and the sacred medicine is sage. All the healing powers come from the North; its colour is white; sweetgrass comes from there; and that is where the sacred bear sits."The Circle is what my paintings are based on. The rounded lines are deliberate ... what I create is something simple and serene and peaceful."
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Leland Bell BEBAMINOJMAT
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Source:
Text: "Wah-sa Gallery"; "Whetung" - Ojibwa Crafts and Art Gallery /Indian Owned and Operated/; Image: "Official artwork for The Shingwauk Project 2002" - The Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association /Shingwauk Indian Residential School - for a gathering of sharing, healing and learning/
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To view more samples of Leland Bell's work go to the following links: 1, 2, 3.
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For more information about the Red Lake Woodland Arts Festival go to: www.redlakemuseum.com.
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* The painting in this posting: "Gathering", size not known, © 2002 Leland Bell BEBAMINOJMAT /Collection of the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association/

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Red Lake Woodland Arts Festival: A Tribute to Norval Morrisseau and the Woodland Artists in 13 DAYS!

July 4th-6th, 2008
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* June 21 is National Aboriginal Day, a day for all Canadians to celebrate the cultures and contributions to Canada of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples *
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De-ba-jeh-mu-jig Theatre Group
/A participant in the Red Lake Woodland Arts Festival/
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De-ba-jeh-mu-jig Theatre Group with Daphne Odjig
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The Heritage Centre is thrilled to announce that De-ba-jeh-mu-jig Theatre Group one of Canada's oldest and most successful Aboriginal theatre companies, will be a major participant in the Red Lake Woodland Arts Festival. Based in Wikwemikong on Manitoulin Island, De-ba-jeh-mu-jig, which means "storytellers" in Cree and Ojibway, assists, supports and empowers isolated communities to tell their own stories from their own perspective, primarily through theatre and other art disciplines.

De-ba-jeh-mu-jig Theatre Group has been delivering outreach and community engagement projects in the First Nations throughout the North since 1997. The partnership with The Red Lake Heritage Centre represents an important advance in cross cultural sharing about Aboriginal people and their distinct world view, with all other Canadians.

The primary goal of the Woodland Arts Festival is to instil pride in Red Lake's Aboriginal culture and history, and to involve and engage our youth in this event. De-ba-jeh-mu-jig, with their experience in working with youth across northern Ontario, will play an important role in accomplishing this by working with local organizations and educators to facilitate the creative vision of emerging youth artists in Red Lake.

Three members of “Debaj”, as the theatre troupe is known to its friends and supporters, recently spent a week in Red Lake researching the roots of Woodland Art in this region. They spent time talking with community members who were present during the sixties and seventies, and who remember Norval Morrisseau and the other artists who were working here at that time. They also toured the area to get a sense of the context that these artists were working out of.

The full company will be returning to Red Lake in the last week of June to spend two weeks working with local youth, both Aboriginal and nonaboriginal. Their goal will be to nurture the artistic talent of the youth, to encourage a sense of pride in the Aboriginal culture and history of this area, and to build bridges between young people of different backgrounds. During the Woodland Arts Festival, Debaj will also be performing a professional theatre presentation about Norval Morrisseau and the Woodland artists, based on their research in Red Lake.

“Norval has inspired and influenced a generation of Aboriginal creators, even within our own company. It is a privilege to be offered the opportunity of animating and explicating the Life of this iconic northern artist who emerged from this remarkable community of Red Lake. I feel it is important to honour where we come from so we can clearly see where we are going, and it is artists like Norval and Daphne Odjig, who have opened the doors for the artists of this generation, to express themselves, and receive acclaim for their innovation and talent.”
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Joe Osawabine, Artistic Director, De-ba-jeh-mu-jig Theatre Group
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About the Group: De-ba-jeh-mu-jig Theatre Group was founded by Shirley Cheechoo in the summer of 1984. It was subsequently incorporated under Provincial Charter on September 26, 1986 at West Bay, Manitoulin Island. In 1989, the company moved to the Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve, also on Manitoulin Island, where it has been located ever since. De-ba-jeh-mu-jig was established in order that Native youth be given the opportunity to see themselves and their lives reflected on the stage, in the characters, in the stories, in the experiences. This mandate dictated that it would be a touring and creation company - nurturing, developing, producing, and disseminating Aboriginal work.
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- For more information go to www.debaj.ca.
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For more information about the Red Lake Woodland Arts Festival go to: www.redlakemuseum.com.
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Friday, June 20, 2008

Red Lake Woodland Arts Festival: A Tribute to Norval Morrisseau and the Woodland Artists in 14 DAYS!

July 4th-6th, 2008
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Honouring Eddy Cobiness (1933-1996)
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"Grouse Nesting", © Eddy Cobiness
/One of his last paintings, done while recovering in Winnipeg, at the Health Science Centre, from a fall in his bathroom in September 1995/
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GENTLE, FLOWING LINES HELPED TO DEFINE CANADIAN NATIVE ART
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Eddy “Doc” Cobiness was born and raised in Warroad, Minnesota in 1933. After a career in the U.S. army in the late 1950s, where he was a Golden Glove boxer, and stint as a pulp-cutter and fisherman, he began to concentrate on painting.
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Eddy Cobiness’s gentle, flowing lines helped define contemporary Canadian native art. He was a treaty Ojibway Indian and he had a large studio in Buffalo Point on the shore of the Lake of the Woods, but was forced to moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1974 because of ill health. He suffered a heart attack in 1994 and had severe diabetes. In September of 1995, Cobiness slipped in his bathroom and broke his hip. Complications from surgery eventually led to his death on January 1st, 1996. Eddy Cobiness left his wife Helen of 34 years and eight children. He was buried on January 5th, 1996 near his studio in Buffalo Point, Manitoba.

Self-taught painter and graphic designer Eddy Cobiness was known for appending his treaty number '47' to most of his works. He began by illustrating realistic village scenes, then initiated a more abstract phase of work, continuing with depictions of provincial wildlife influenced by celebrated Woodland artist Benjamin Chee Chee. Cobiness worked in oil and acrylic, watercolour, pen and ink, and coloured pencil.

In 1973 seven Canadian native artists gave birth to the Professional National Indian Artists Inc. also known as the Indian Group of Seven. The Group consisted of Daphne Odjig, Carl Ray (murdered in Sioux Lookout in 1978), Jackson Beardy (died of a heart attack in 1984), Norval Morrisseau (died in 2007), Eddy Cobiness, Alex Janvier and Joseph Sanchez.

That year Jackson Beardy, Alex Janvier, and Daphne Odjig had been involved in an exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery called Treaty Numbers 23, 287, 1171 a reference to the numbers given to their respective bands when treaties had been signed with the Canadian government. The show had been a success and as a follow up, the idea came to formalize a group of native artists that would spread the word about Canadian Woodland (Anishnaabe) Art Movement and to assist younger native artists.

Eddy Cobiness frequently painted stylized images of animals, and was known for being able to capture the essence of various creatures with just a few deft strokes, a style that came to be known as “the flowing art of Eddy Cobiness”.
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Cobiness’s work has been collected by Queen Elizabeth II, former Prime Minister Jacques Chrétien, and actor Charlton Heston and is in the collections of the following institutions: Canadian Museum of Civilization, Hull, Québec; Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Ottawa, Ontario; Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Ontario; McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinburg, Ontario...

Source: "Winnipeg Free Press" - an article dated January 3, 1996: "Gentle, flowing lines helped to define Canadian native art" by Tony Davis /Staff Reporter/and other sources.
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For additional information about Eddy Cobiness you may visit "Wikipedia" and "Native Art In Canada" websites.
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For more information about the Red Lake Woodland Arts Festival go to: www.redlakemuseum.com.
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* The painting in this posting: "Grouse Nesting", 11"x15", © 1995 Eddy Cobiness /Private Collection/

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Red Lake Woodland Arts Festival: A Tribute to Norval Morrisseau and the Woodland Artists in 15 DAYS!

July 4th-6th, 2008
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Honouring Paddy Peters (b. 1956)
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"A Family", © Paddy Peters
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Paddy Peters was born in Pigangikum Indian Reserve, Ontario. He is well known artist of the Woodland (Anishnaabe) School of Art Movement and was on of several painters associated with the Triple K Co-operative, a silkscreen operation based in Red Lake. Triple K Co-operative artists also included Norval Morrisseau, Goyce Kakegamic, Joshim Kakegamic, Saul Williams, and Barry Peters.

For more information about the Red Lake Woodland Arts Festival go to: www.redlakemuseum.com.
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* The silkscreen in this posting: "A Family", 14"x20", (Issued by the Triple K Co-operative, Edition of 46), © Paddy Peters /Private Collection/

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Red Lake Woodland Arts Festival: A Tribute to Norval Morrisseau and the Woodland Artists in 16 DAYS!

July 4th-6th, 2008
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Honouring James A. Simon MISHIBINIJIMA (b. 1954)
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"Earth Child", © James A. Simon MISHIBINIJIMA
/Mother Earth is a very young planet that travels through out the universe which Grandmother the Moon stands beside quidence for the life for.../
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- The above painting is from THE DIAMOND SERIES -
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THE DIAMOND SERIES
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Why would an artist place a diamond into paintings and landscapes? If the landscapes reveal the living, sacred earth, what hidden aspect would a diamond convey?When the Buddha realized Enlightenment, how did he know it? Legend tells us that this question was asked of him and he answered by pointing to the earth upon which he sat-the Earth was witness to the momement of realization. The flash of realization, like the reflection of a diamond, is not reached in stages or steps. Realization is sudden, the infinite is perceptable.
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James Simon MISHIBINIJIMA transcends all duality-and decends into the vital center of consciousness-to the very experience of ultimate reality. What is the experience of infinity? What is ultimate reality perceived when a human being experiences union with the infinite? What does the point of contact to ultimate reality look like? What tradition within an ancient culture provides the language to communication such knowledge? Whats does the artist see when he sees the union of the infinite source to the infinite earth, and to himself?
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The light of sudden, ultimate realization is beyond thought and feeling. Alan W. Watts introducted Western consciousness to this experience when he wrote of Oriental Metaphysics in his 1957 publication The Supreme Identity. (Noonday Press, NY, Sixth printing, 1966). Watts defines metaphysic as the " immediate realization of ultimate reality which is the ground and cause of the universe, and thus the principle and meaning of human life... " (p.18)
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The introduction of eastern philosophy is much closer to the spiritual consciousness of the Anishinabe culture, which may be the reason that westerners have been unable to recognize that the native people had a religion or culture at all.
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Watts writes "in this realm religious and theological distinctions are transcended, not annihilated... difficult and dark from excess of light as this realm may be....it is here that man actually realizes his ultimate meaning and destiny. If only relativety few ever reach this point at any one time, they anchor the rest of us to eternal sanity." (p.14).
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Within this realm Mishibinijima places the experience of reality into the perception of reality-by placing a Diamond into a landscape. The perception is the experience-the shamanic experience and shamanic perception are revealed simultaneously, in the realm of timelessness in which they occur. How could he reveal this experience more completely, or more beautifully?
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Knowledge of the infinite is rare but universal. The infinite, like art, speaks a universal language. The Anishinabe culture-very much alive-is oriented to the cosmological. It's unity, harmony, and balance is deliberate: "related to the ultimate meaning and nature of the universe. Man... is seen as a microcosm inseparably bound up with the macrocosm...." as Watts describes traditional cultures. ( p. 28)
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Watts goes on to say " Societies of this kind have already existed... there are the best reasons for saying that such societies are far more stable and significant than our own. By " significant" we mean that they are related to universals. In the highest sense, that is significant which is related to the universal and eternal, which find it's true in the fullness of Infinate Being."
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James Simon MISHIBINIJIMA reveals this consciousness in his paintings and extends the experience of this consciousness in "The Diamond Series". The diamond is placed in the position that a dot inside an ancient Anishinabe pictograph is placed, to signify Gitchi Manitou-the Great Spirit.
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The dot may be described as Watts describes it: " Many of the terms for the infinite employed in the various metaphysical traditions signify nothing so much as pure consciousness-the Self, the Light , Universal Mind...and even the Void...,which in Mahayana Buddhism denotes not so much mere emptiness as an absolute clarity and transparency. (p.57)
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The Diamond , placed in this way, reveals the consciousness to see the Earth as sacred and alive. This orientation to the infinite in Anishinabe spiritual culture is the orientation and consciousness of James Simon MISHIBINIJIMA.
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Mishibinijima and E.C.Lewis Copyright 2008
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ARTIST STATEMENT
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The symbols within Mishibinijima's artwork are ancient; born in 1954, he began to paint in 1969, in his homeland of Manitoulin Island, the worlds largest freshwater island located in northern Lake Huron.
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Manitoulin Island had become a catalyst for the revitalization of the Anishinabe culture in the 1960's revitalization movement. He returned to the pictographs and sacred scrolls because, the artists: "... have a mandate from the Great Spirit to paint, and by their paintings restore the Anishinabec to their ancient ways." (Mary E. Southcott, The Sound of the Drum: The sacred Art of the Anishinabec . Boston Mills Press, Ontario 1984).
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Though his paintings are often imitated, Mishibinijima remains unconcerned; fluent in the Anishinabec language and legend, he is the living communication of these legends in graphic form.
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His prolific art work develops a rich series of themes born of a pure shamanistic perspective and knowledge. Mishibinijima has illustrated a portfolio of symbols derived from the ancient pictographs found on the natural landscape that convey sacred teachings distilled over thousands of years.
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These symbols communicate the legends of creation, man's place in creation, the ethics of human behavoir, the history of nomandic migrations, and the sacred poetry of Anishinabec language in graphic forms.
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Remaining true to the meanings within these forms and knowledge of rich Spiritual iconography of the societies known as the Three Fires Confederacy of Manitoulin, Mishibinijima brings ancient teachings to the modern world and continues the role of the Anishinabec painters.
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"To us, all life is sacred, the gift from the Great Spirit. And the Manitoulin painters particular share this view " ( p.35, The Sound of the Drum, Mary E. Southcott, 1984).
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This can be seen within elements of James A. Simon MISHIBINIJIMA paintings in certain periods of his work, often containing a form line: a heavy black outline which defines and contains a secondary line or patern of anatomical delineation. The spiritual inner dimension beneath the mere appearance of life forms is visually communicated.
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The two dimensional reality of a canvas is not tampered with, creating an illusion of depth and shadow during the renaissance period of European art is an example of the original meaning of the word of art - fake, as in artificial.
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In stark contrast, the Anishinabe word mijiwi-izahijiganan, means " made with hands". A facet of truth is conveyed in graphic form from a perspective of the universe that is lived by a Shaman painter and derived from nature. Every detail is vitally important: illusion is not only unecessary, it is considered a desecration of the intent and sacred responsibility of the artist.
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The universal perspective of nature is within the cardinal directions of the East, South, West, and North: there are Spirits of each direction that are recognized within ceremonies. Attempts to define these elements is rigorously rejected. It is the insight that is visually communicated, the truth of belief which is lived, and the guidance of the elder to knowledge and meaning that is conveyed.
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To understand seeing in the way of Anishinabec art where Animism, Shamanism Mediwiwin and even Christianity is revealed in visual form and beyond definition, we may compare the Sacred Mandala of Tibetan Buddhism and it's Shamanic practice of Tantra or the visual graphics of the Shamanic cultures within Siberia, Norway, Sweden and west Arnhemland, Austrailia within the sacred, as explained by Lao Tsu twenty Five Hundred years ago in China. " The which can be told is not the eternal way ". Inner reality is the asperation of Anishinabe artists and this is undertaken with a sacred and cermonial respect and responsibility.
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The dominant lines in Anishinabe art are the straight line, the curve line and the circle. The circle is perfection, completeness and continuity. Western Art is built upon the circle, triangle, and rectangle, with great attention paid to the composition within the parameters of the frame of the canvas. Anishinabe painters pay as little heed to the limitations of the edges of the frame in which the visual graphic is communicated as their ancestors would have paid to the edges of the cliffs upon which the pictographs were painted. The rocks themselves were living spirits and Mihibinijima has painted these spirits in his Mountain Series.
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The abstraction in European styles such as cubism convey the elements of appearance but abstaction in Anishinabe art conveys a vision. European roots in shamanism may excite the imagination but the inner conflicts revealed in dreams and visions quests have never been lost to Indigenous north American societies.
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James A. Simon MISHIBINIJIMA communicates this connection in every detail of his paintings, and to quote Maey E. Southcott once again: "It is evident that Anishinabe painting reflects and reinforces the beliefs about the meaning of life itself. No greater art has ever exisited without a great philosophy or belief to inspire it. The culture of the Anishinabe provides the ideal source for the Anishinabe Artist. (p.82, The Sound of the Drum)
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Source: M I S H I B I N I J I M A - International Artist and Consultant
/Text & image used with permission of the artist/
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For more information about the Red Lake Woodland Arts Festival go to: www.redlakemuseum.com.
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* The painting in this posting: "Earth Child", 65"x54", © Jamesa A. Simon Mishibinijima /Collection of the artist/

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Red Lake Woodland Arts Festival: A Tribute to Norval Morrisseau and the Woodland Artists in 17 DAYS!

July 4th-6th, 2008
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Honouring Martin Panamick (1956-1977)
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"Two Fish", © Martin Panamick
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For more info about Martin Panamick and painting presented herein go to Paula Giese's website. /The author passed away in Summer of 1997/
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Candice Hopkins about Paula Giese: "Like video, digital technologies have become a medium for speaking and telling our stories. The Internet, for example, was recognized almost immediately for its ability to bring people together and communicate across large geographical divides. One of the first Aboriginal people to make use of these abilities was Paula Giese, who started creating Web sites for native audiences in 1993. Her most ambitious project, Native American Indian Resources, [www.kstrom.net/isk/] is not merely a resource but an extensive map of Native American life. The site contains everything from traditional stories and ideologies to information on the plight of Leonard Pelletier. From the beginning, Paula Giese saw the Internet for what it was - one of the most advanced information storage and retrieval systems available today. Although not maintained after the author's death in 1997, at its peak Native American Art Resources contained links to over three hundred other Web sites which, taken together, tell a story of contemporary Native America."
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For more information about the Red Lake Woodland Arts Festival go to: www.redlakemuseum.com.
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* Detailed information about the painting in this posting unknown, © Martin Panamick