|James Mishibinijima: 'Spirit Of Manitoulin'|
WHAT should be the first step in providing our readers with an insight into the fascinating universe that is behind our paintings and jewelry? I pondered on this for a while and decided to go with a pragmatic approach to start with: an explanation about the Woodland School of Art! Because no artists - or art movement - have more influence on Simone's and my canvases and jewelry pieces than our Anishinaabe, Cree, Métis, and Dene brothers and sisters who paint in the great northerly tradition of the Woodland School. This is part 3 of the series.
==The paradoxical nature of Woodland Art==
|Growth Within, acrylic on vanvas by second generation painter Simone McLeod/Aki-egwaniizid|
Woodland art is first of all a contemporary art that wants to explore and express in a ritual fashion the inner meaning of all surrounding life forms and the reciprocal relationships between humans, the doodem/clans, the spirits, the supernatural, the plant world, and animals. The underlying motivation is always to translate this (ancient) world view into dramatic visual representations that can be universally appreciated. This discrepancy between drawing from ancestral tradition and working on the edge of contemporary art results in a truly unique art form that since Norval Morrisseau drew his first paintings in the beach sand of the shores of Lake Nipigon, openly defies the narrow classification systems of Western thought.
'Anishinaabewaki' (World of the Ojibwe people). This outline pen and ink drawing, which I made in the ‘Pictorial Legend’ fashion of the Canadian Medicine Painters, depicts several images – representing various layers of symbolic metaphorical meaning – and their corresponding names. The images demonstrate a cross section of the traditional worldview of the Ojibwe Anishinaabeg, who for - at least - 1000 years inhabit the North American Great Lakes area and the Canadian Shield. I guess I could as well have named the drawing Anishnaabe Miinigozwin: Cosmos of the Ojibwe people, or literally: 'Gift to the Ojibwe people'.
However, Woodland art in itself seems also characterized by contradictions as it reveals a striking duality of purpose and interest. Many products of the school represent a vital modern school of art, and despite breathing the traditional imagery, stories, and teachings of their people, much of the woodland artist’s work displays the same intensely personal and autobiographical character, even the same tendency to avant-garde styling, as can be found in the fine artwork of any Western-oriented, non-Native artist of today.
Spirit writing migration story on birch bark, displayed at the 2010 Diba Jimooyung exhibition of the storytelling of the Gichi Gami-Anishinaabeg (Anishinaabe nations of the Great Lakes). The story of the Anishinaabe people is told through niizhwaaso-ishkoden (the 7 prophecies or fires) and illustrated with this kind of spirit writings, generally called 'mazinaajimowin’. The prophecies recount essential spiritual and life lessons as well as the history of the Gichi Gami-Anishinaabeg. Traditional graphic expressions like these, which integrate writing and visuals and demonstration aiding the memory, spiritually and stylistically became an endless source of design inspiration to the painters and jewelry makers of the new woodland art.
But at the same time the inclination of many woodland artists to play many roles – as they swing between one’s private intents and needs and public artistic expression – and simultaneously speak to essentially different audiences (one’s own community versus the Western-oriented art world and perception) sets woodland art apart from today’s mainstream art.
We believe that the same inherent duality and tension is revealed by a tendency to operate on a strong ''community base'', a mentality that is quintessentially Native and contrariwise to the individualism so often encouraged in today’s modern art world, and modern society as a whole...
See also: The First Step, part 1.
The First Step, part 2.
'Medicine Sky Bear': sterling silver, turquoise & red coral belt buckle. Inspired on a dream I once had - about a bearlike figure 'swimming' in the sky, next to Giizis, the sun. As a jewelry maker, one could say my main source for design inspiration are the oral and pictorial traditions of my Baawitigowinini Ojibwe ancestors from the upper peninsula of Michigan. Not only do these traditions offer a wellspring of artistic material, they also provide me with a set of responsibilities in everyday life. But as a jeweler-artist, I also draw on the modern visual language of the Canadian Medicine Painters. I like to think of my jewelry as a unique blend of this age old magical world from the northern woods and the minimalism of contemporary jewelry design.
==Artists of the Woodland School of Art==
A film about the Woodland Spirits - with the late Roy Thomas, Moses Amik Beaver, and Gelinau Fisher
First generation Woodland artists:
Image: Ojibwe artist Norval Morrisseau/Miskwaabik Animikii, grandfather of the Woodland Art School. He was the first to defy cultural restrictions by taking the oral traditions and sacred pictography of the Ojibwe-Midewiwin belief system outside Native communities in Canada.
Second generation Woodland artists:
*Moses Amik (Beaver) (1960-2017) (Ojibwe)
*Josie Anderson (1946) (Cree)
*Ahmoo Angeconeb (1955) (Ojibwe)
*Donald Gordon AhnAhnsisi McIntyre (Ojibwe/Anglo Canadian)
*Lawrence Stephen Beaulieu (1959) (Ojibwe)
*Richard Bedwash (1936-2007) (Ojibwe)
*Ayla Bouvette (1941) (Métis)
*Richard Mark Bruder (Ojbwe)
*Allan Chapman (1953) (Cree)
*Clifford Edwin Dubois (Nakawē-Ojibwe)
*Lloyd Dubois (1964) (Nakawē-Ojibwe)
*Francis Esquega (Sikaasika) (1955) (Ojibwe)
*Michael Fatt (Dene)
*Gelineau Fisher (1951 - 2015) (Ojibwe)
*Kurt Flett (1956-2011) (Anishinini/Oji-Cree/Woodland Cree)
*Doug Fox (Ojibwe)
*Zhaawano Giizhik (Tammo G. Geertsema) (1959) (Anglo American-Dutch-Ojibwe jewelry designer/goldsmith/graphic artist)
*Theo Head (1958) (Métis/Cree/Belgian)
*James Jacko (1968) (Ojibwe)
*David Beaucage Johnson (Ojibwe)
*Robert Kakaygeesick Jr. (1948) (Ojibwe)
*Eleanor Kanasawee (Ojibwe)
*Norman Knott (1945-2003) (Ojibwe)
*John Laford (1954) (Ojibwe)
*Joanne Victoria Larkman (Toronto based; background information is lacking)
*John Paul Lavand (1962) (Ojibwe)
*Melvin Madahbee (Ojibwe)
*Brian Marion (1960-2011) (Saulteaux/Nakawē-Ojibwe)
*William Anthony Monague (Ojibwe)
*Bruce Morrisseau (1965) (Ojibwe)
*Eddie Munroe (1961-2012) (Anishinini/Oji-Cree/Woodland Cree)
*William Nelson (Ojibwe)
*Leo Neilson (Sweatpie) (Ojibwe)
*Maxine Noel (Ioyan Mani) (Oglala Isanyati Lakota)
*Darla Fisher Odjig (1952) (Ojibwe/Bodewadmi)
*Mike Ormsby ((Ojibwe)
*Daniel Pitchegigwaneh (1974) (Czechian-Canadian)
*Frank Polson (1952) (Algonquin)
*Randolph (Randy) Clement Trudeau (Shkaabewis) (Odawa-Ojibwe) (1954-2013)
*Randy Trudeau (Odawa-Ojibwe)
*David B. Williams (1947-2009) (Ojibwe)
The above images shows Ojibwe painters Moses Amik and Benjamin (Tom) Chee Chee.
Mozes Beaver (Amik) is from Summer Beaver, Ontario (Nibinamik). While Amik’s style is reminiscent of traditional Medine painting, his work is distinct for its multi-layered approach, which results in magical images of spirits, human faces and animal forms embedded against a background of the natural environment.
Although stylistically one of the most influential 2nd- generation artists, Benjamin Chee Chee (1944-1977) did not consider himself a part of the spiritual symbolism typical of the Medicine Painters. He once said: “My drawings of birds and animals have no symbolic meaning from the past. To me they are creatures of the present and I draw them because I like their clean lines and beautiful shapes.”
She belongs to he Name doodem (Sturgeon clan), and feels much kinship with her mother's people, the Azaadiwi-ziibi Nitam-Anishinaabeg (Poplar River "#16" First Nation) of Manitoba. She descends from a long line of Manitoba-based Midewiwin seers and healers and artists.
Simone holds a unique place in the art heritage of her People. She takes pride in creating in her paintings and sketchings a peaceful world in which she and the women and children of her People could live happily. She focuses on humans and animals representing doodem (clan) symbols and describes her sketchings, paintings, and poems as prayers of hope for all. Her work deals with several various, yet interrelated themes, the underlying leitmotiv being child abuse anddomestic violence within First Nations communities. Each and every of her artworks is dedicated to the cause of those countless women, men, and children who suffered the same fate as she has.
|"Thunder Bay" by the late, second generation, Ojibe painter Roy Thomas|
Third generation Woodland artists:
*Shaun Hedican (Ojibwe)
*Thomas (Tom) Hogan (Ojibwe)
*Michael Kinoshameg (Ojibwe)
*Elizabeth LaPensée (Ojibwe/Métis/Irish mixed-media graphic artist)
*Sharifah Marsden (Misizaagiwininiwag Anishinaabeg) (1976) (painter, beader, engraver/jeweler)
*Duncan Neganigwane Pheasant (1960) (Ojibwe)
*Aaron Paquette (Cree-Cherokee-Métis)
*John D Rombough (Dene)
*Daniel Pitchegigwaneh Svetlonos (1974) (Czech)
*Derek Paul (Ojibwe-Dene)
*Vasil Woodland (Mushyk Vasiliy) (Ukrainian)
Fourth generation Woodland artists:
Image: Josh Kakegamic (b. 1994), son of Thunder Bay-based artist Christian Morrisseau, at work in his father's studio.
*Josh Kakegamic (1994) (Anishinini/Oji-Cree/Woodland Cree)
Controversy around copying Norval Morrisseau's work by outsiders:
Thunder Bay-based gallery owner Louise Thomas with sons Roy Jr. (left) and Randy posing in front of her late husband Roy Thomas’ painting, “Spirit of Woodland Art” (2000) on loan from Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center in Finland, Minnesota, for a retrospective of the artist’s work at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
Click here for more information.
Canadian Art Frontrunners in Winnipeg: Past, Present and Future. Click here for info.