Honouring the legacy of internationally acclaimed Anishinaabeg artist, Norval Morrisseau (also known as Miskwaabik Animiiki-Copper Thunderbird), the MacKenzie Art Gallery is proud to present Miskwaabik Animiiki Power Lines: The Work of Norval Morrisseau—set to open 13 November 2021. This exhibition illustrates the significance of his work as the first Indigenous artist to break through onto Canada’s contemporary art scene and his continued influence today. The surreal depictions of history and cultural traditions in his revolutionary works providing inspiration to generations of Indigenous art—leaving Morrisseau’s legacy as one of the most iconic and celebrated artists in Canada.
The MacKenzie Art Gallery is thrilled by the exceptional opportunity to organize an exhibition of a substantial collection of paintings, drawings, audio recordings, and ephemera from various stages of the artist’s career. Selected from the largest collection of his artwork in Canada, Westerkirk Fine Art, Power Lines: The Work of Norval Morrisseau will feature several works that represent the ways in which we connect to lines of power—in particular, our relationality to all beings, and the ways in which it has been disrupted through colonialism. With his vibrant, unique style of painting, based in Anishinaabeg spiritual ties to tradition and territory, the pieces in this exhibition evocatively show the interconnection among creation, including familial relationships.
“We are thrilled to be sharing this important look at a grandfather for artists across Turtle Island,” says Executive Director & CEO John G. Hampton. “Morrisseau’s work is as powerful as ever and I am excited to share the wisdom, beauty, and healing of his work with our community.”
Miskwaabik Animiiki’s work remains instrumental in paving the way for Indigenous artists and their recognition in contemporary art. Identified as a fundamental element in the Indigenous art movement in Canada, he was the first Indigenous artist to both open a solo exhibition at the Pollock Gallery 1962, and receive an invitation to the National Gallery of Canada for a retrospective exhibition—presented just two years before his passing in 2007. As a founding member of the Group of Seven—this ground-breaking entity of Indigenous artists, self-organized to demand recognition as professional, contemporary artists, challenged new ways of thinking about Indigenous people, their lives and art. Morrisseau’s Woodland style—consisting of rich colour, bold lines and x-ray lines on an array of mediums, has evolved from the 1960s to the early 2000s and continues to centre Anishinaabeg ideology and iconography in traditional storytelling. Cognizant of Canada’s fraught history of colonialism and violence—the stories and iterations of family and kinship ties in his work further support Indigenous-centred knowledge. Six decades later, these conversations are recognized more in contemporary art discourse, inspiring radical rupture in Canadian art.
Curatorial Fellow Felicia Gay shares, “I am incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to curate a second iteration of Power Lines: The Work of Norval Morrisseau. As a Swampy Cree person my culture is very connected and intertwined with the ideologies and teaching of the Anishinaabeg people. It was not until I unwrapped the first painting all those years ago that I experienced the power of his work. There is an energy and presence in his art that I believe can only be felt in their presence. He once said that his paintings were amulets. He said there was a time we wore amulets for protection, but he wanted to see his people experience these amulets and see the stories in a new way. Norval Morrisseau provided a coping mechanism, a way in which to transfer teachings, experience power, and share unabashedly his spiritual journey. He called himself a shaman, like his grandfather, the narratives he shared through his art practice could only be shared by someone who had the right to, and he evolved both the practice of spirituality, as well as created a space within the cultural practices of storytelling amongst his people.”
“We’d like to thank the MacKenzie Art Gallery for their dedication—continuing to showcase world-caliber exhibitions during these unprecedented and difficult times.” remarks Cory Dingle, representative for the Norval Morrisseau Estate. “It is our hope with this exhibition that viewers will focus on the interdependence and unspoken communication of all spiritual beings. Subtract one spiritual being, the lines are broken and we all lose—we all suffer.” Cory shares “it’s about interconnectivity, and the fact that we need each other, which is true now more than ever in this day and age.”
Visitors are invited to come and share in this exciting collection of works from 13 November 2021 to 3 April 2022 in the Kenderdine Gallery.