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Monday, August 29, 2011

Teaching stories, part 2

Rebirth of a powerful and enchanting art

Susan Ross

Since the 60’s of the last century, the mazinaajimowinan (pictographs and birch bark writings) of their forefathers have proven to be an endless source of inspiration to the painters and jewelry makers with roots in various communities in the northern Great Lakes area. The typical outline drawing style – which would become known as ‘linear determinatives´ – of the Canadian-based ‘Medicine Painters’ is directly based on the ancient art of the Anishinaabe People. In order to to fit the need of their art practices, the Anishinaabe and Cree Medicine Painters – led by the late Norval Morrisseau -  began to stylize many of these archaic components into a new abstract visual language, which became known throughout the world as THE NEW WOODLAND SCHOOL OF ART.

Although the majority of the interpretations of mazinaajimowin can be attributed to artists with an Anishinaabe background, at least one exception to this rule is worth noticing: late Canadian painter SUSAN ROSS (1915-2006), who was befriended to, and certainly inspired by, Norval Morrisseau himself, was clearly enchanted by the visual art traditions of the Anishinaabeg.

Zhaawano Giizhik trouwringen designer
Image: Kitchi-Manitou, oil on canvas, 121.9 x 91.4 in,

About me: As an artist and jewelry designer, I like to draw on the oral and pictorial traditions of my Ojibwe Anishinaabe ancestors from the American Great Lakes area. The MAZINAAJIMOWIN or ‘pictorial spirit writings’ - which are rich with  symbolism and have been painted throughout history on rocks and etched on other sacred items such as copper and slate, birch bark  and animal hide - were a form of spiritual as well as educational communication that gave structure and meaning to the cosmos. Many of these sacred pictographs or petroforms – some of which are many  generations old - hide in sacred locations where the manidoog (spirits) reside, particularly in those mystic places near the coastline where the sky, the earth, the water, the underground and the underwater meet.

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