There are several layers of thought to the way Michael Belmore uses natural materials in his work. Take just one of those materials- the gleaming copper you can see on the carved edges of the rocks. It has several meanings:
- In Anishinaabe beliefs, copper is thought to be the blood of two manitous (spirits). The animikiig (or thunderbirds) and the mishibizhiig (or underwater panthers) were said to fight in the places between where their homes met– on the shores of lakes, leaving behind their copper blood.
- Because it is found on lakeshores, and because it is easy to shape, copper is often connected with water.
- Because of the way that it reflects warm light, copper is often connected to fire. This artwork looks like a low, smouldering campfire.
Michael’s artwork often looks at the “in-between” places. Copper can represent the space between the land and sky, the connection between water and fire, and the connection between spirits and the Earth. The copper is placed in between the rocks where they fit together. Even the fact that this fire is smouldering makes us think about an in-between time: the time between it being roaring, and going out.
To learn more about Anishinaabe beliefs about copper and about Michael Belmore’s work, take a look at this catalog from his solo exhibition, mskwi-blood-sang. This resource is in both French and English.