National Aboriginal Day: June 21, 2016
June 21, 2016 marks the 20th year in celebrating the strong vibrant cultures and traditions of Canada’s unique heritage, diverse cultures, and outstanding contributions of the First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples.
In support of this day, the Grimsby Public Art Gallery has exhibited a small selection of Aboriginal art for our visitors to enjoy. On display are Norval Morrisseau’s Thinking of Fishes and Carl Beam’s Traffic.
Norval Morrisseau was born in 1931 on the Sand Point Ojibway reserve that is now known as Thunder Bay, Ontario. He was raised in accordance with Anishnaabe tradition; which is by his maternal grandparents. While his grandfather shared with him the traditions and legends of his people, his grandmother taught him the values of Christianity. The contrast between these two religions became a major influence in Morrisseau’s intellectual and artistic development.
Norval Morrisseau is founder of the unique painting style known as Woodlands School. Today the style is known as Anishnaabe painting; acting as a reference to the artist’s heritage. In his works that evoke renderings of spiritual creatures, Morrisseau reveals the souls of humans and animals through his unique style of imaging. His art draws upon Midewiwin birchbark scrolls, rock paintings, and Anishnaabe decorative arts. By combining rich colours, he represents inner realities with strong flowing lines, often indicating spiritual forces. His art expresses his spiritual explorations and aspects of cultures and Christianity, shamanism, the interconnection between all living things and the importance of family.
Morrisseau is also known as Copper Thunderbird. This name was given to him when he fell fatally ill at the young age of 19. According to Anishnaabe tradition, when a strong name is given to a dying person it has the power to give them new energy and save their lives. He recovered after this ceremony and uses his given name of Copper Thunderbird to sign his artworks.
Among many other honours, Norval Morrisseau is a Member of the Order of Canada, and was acknowledged as Grand Shaman of the Ojibway in 1986. In 1995, The Assembly of First Nations bestowed on him their highest honour, the presentation of an eagle feather.
Carl Beam was born in 1943 to Barbara and Edward Cooper. His mother, an Ojibwa, raised him on the reserve in West Bay on Manitoulin Island. In 1971 he began his artistic studies at the Kootenay School of Art and later earned his BFA at the University of Victoria in 1974. He pursued his MFA at the University of Alberta in 1975; however, he was unable to attain it due to disagreements with the faculty over the nature of his thesis on Indian art.
By integrating personal memory with issues related to the environment and brutality, Beam produces works that rethink the way histories were told. Beam employs a range of media including painting, printmaking, and sculpture. The collage and photo-transfer techniques he often uses allow him to visually bring together subjects and events from different historical moments that he infuses with political commentary. His contemporary art-making strategies serve and empower his engagement with the struggle of Aboriginal people in the late 20th century.
Carl Beam had a strong influence on a generation of artists that was instrumental in the development of the art of Canada’s First Nations. In his work, Beam places his Native culture within broader surroundings by bringing attention to the problems that affect contemporary native cultures.
Aboriginal artwork is an important part of understanding and appreciating Canadian heritage. The Grimsby Public Art Gallery is proud to exhibit artwork by Norval Morrisseau and Carl Beam in celebration of National Aboriginal Day.
If you are interested in learning more about National Aboriginal Day, please visit: https://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1100100013248/1100100013249