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First Nation Artists

Sammy Hill – Swinomish Nation, Artist and Drum Maker

Pacific Northwest artist and activist Louie Gong introduces Coast Salish art to skate shoes.

Norval Morrisseau, (March 14, 1932 – December 4, 2007), also known as Copper Thunderbird, was an Aborigina Ojibway Canadian artist. Known as the “Picasso of the North”, Morrisseau created works depicting the legends of his people, the cultural and political tensions between native Canadian and European traditions, his existential struggles, and his deep spirituality and mysticism. His style is characterized by thick black outlines and bright colors. He founded the Woodlands School of Canadian art and is a prominent member of the Indian Group of Seven.

Daphne Odjig, (September 11, 1919), is an influential Canadian First Nations artist of Odawa-Potawatomi-English heritage. Her many awards include the Order of Canada and the Governor General’s Award. Her painting is often characterized as Woodlands Style. Daphne Odjig was the driving force behind the Indian Group of Seven.

Alex Janvier, (1935 – ), the ‘first Canadian native modernist,’ has created a unique style of modernist abstraction, his own “visual language,” informed by the rich cultural and spiritual traditions and heritage of the Dene in northern Alberta. His abstract style is particularly suited to large-scale works.

Jackson Beardy (Garden Hill First Nation Reserve, Island Lake, Manitoba, Canada, July 24, 1944 – December 7, 1984, Winnipeg, Manitoba) was a Canadian artist. He was an Anishinini-Indian and his works are characterized by scenes from the holy stories of his people. He belonged to the “Woodland School of Art” and was a prominent member of the Indian Group of Seven.

Eddy Cobiness, (born 1933 in Warroad, Minnesota, United States, died January 1, 1996 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada) was a Canadian artist. He was an Ojibwa-Indian and his art work is characterized by scenes from the life outdoors and nature. He began with realistic scenes and then evolved into more abstract work. He belonged to the “Woodland School of Art” and was a prominent member of the “Professional Native Indian Artists Incorporation”, better known as the Indian Group of Seven.

Carl Ray (1943–1978) was a First Nations artist who was active on the Canadian art scene from 1969 until his passing in 1978.[1] Considered primarily a Woodlands Style artist, he also painted European style wildlife and landscapes. He was a founding member of the Indian Group of Seven.

Joseph M. Sanchez (1948 – ) is an artist and museum curator. Although born Taos Pueblo, Sanchez was raised in Whiteriver, Arizona on the White Mountain Apache Reservation, and was named by the Ojibway and member of the Indian Group of Seven.

William (Bill) Ronald Reid, (January 12, 1920 – March 13, 1998) was a Canadian artist whose works included jewelry, sculpture, screen-printing, and painting. His work is featured on the Canadian $20 banknote and his famous sculpting Raven and the First Peoples is at the UBC Museum of Anthropology.

Todd Jason Baker was born in North Vancouver (September 22, 1965), the grandson of the Chief of the Squamish Nation Band, Chief Khat-la-cha (Chief Simon Baker). After public school, Todd studied fine arts at Emily Carr Institute and Capilano College, finishing with Fashion Design in New York at Parsons School of Design. He graduated with a BFA in 1992. The next four years were spent working in the fashion industry in New York city. His resume includes names like Donna Karan Menswear and Gitano. His creative skills were used in designs for Ralph Lauren and The Gap. In 1996, Todd moved back to Vancouver and is now a prominent First Nations Artist.

Julie Miller received her degree in fine arts from Kansas State University. Her vibrant oil paintings include a variety of subjects, including portraits. Julie says, “My approach is very direct and colorful. I am partial to paintings that show the process of brush, knife, paint and emotion. My favorite works portray ordinary scenes and familiar objects or places.”

Susan Eleanor Seddon was born in Brazil in 1941 of English parents who had emigrated from South Africa. Two years later her mother died, shortly after the birth of her second child, Patrick.

Ms. Boulet’s early childhood was spent on a large citrus and cattle ranch. She loved the connection to nature offered by farm life and enjoyed a rich fantasy life fed by folk tales told her by her father and by the farmworkers. Encouraged by her father, she began drawing; her first subjects were the cows and horses of the farm. While Boulet took art classes off and on during her life, beginning in her finishing school years in Lusanne, Switzerland, she never studied art formally. She said, in fact, that she never planned on becoming an artist–the vocation came to her as by accident.

Boulet came to the US in 1967 to work for Braniff Airlines. It was also in this year that she met and married Lawrence Boulet, who inspired Susan to invest herself seriously in her art. Boulet credited the birth of her son Eric, in 1969, with freeing her creativity, saying that Eric “somehow freed the child in me; gave me permission to enjoy fantasy . . . gave me permission to do unicorns and dragons.” Boulet began selling her art in 1970. By 1972, aided by her husband who managed all nonartistic aspects of her career, she was supporting the family. In 1980 her husband died of cancer.

Much of Boulet’s work from the 1970s pictures cheerful images from fairytale and fantasy-jesters, knights, mermaids, magicians, and the like-executed in rainbow-bright colors. Around 1980 Boulet produced ‘I Heard the Owl Call my Name’, the first in a series of paintings that pointed to a new direction in Boulet’s work. From this point on, Boulet painted images that she felt tapped into the essence of the collective human unconscious—images of goddesses from various cultures and Native American shamanic images that married the forms of animal and human into a coherent whole. Boulet drew the inspiration for her art from a wide variety of sources: mythology and poetry, Jungian psychology and worldwide spiritual traditions, as well as deep love of animals and the natural world.

Today Susan Seddon Boulet’s paintings are held in collections around the world. Susan Seddon Boulet died in her home in Oakland on April 28, 1997 after a long struggle with cancer. She was fifty-five.

Ayla Bouvette – I am a self-taught American Metis Artist. I reside in Sault Sainte Marie, the city through which the first Canadian Voyageur in the BOUVETTE Family traveled on his way to establishing a long family history in the Red River Valley and beyond. I am exploring the woodland style of painting, taking clues and cues from my peers in the Metis Culture. My Maternal Heritage is RR Metis, Salish, and English. I am 4th generation Eldest Daughter, direct female line from a Native Woman of the Okanagan Valley in B.C. and I carry her Native DNA. I have always known of my Aboriginal heritage, and in the 1990s I moved North to further investigate and reclaim the Native Heritage my Mother, Grandmother, and Great Grandmother were taught to repress. I am a proud Metis Woman, a North American Native Woman. I am signing these paintings with the Metis name BOUVETTE, that has graced my family for many generations.

I hope you enjoy viewing my Art as much as I enjoyed creating it.

The pleasures for me include the beauty of color, the flow of the paint along the lines of definition, the feeling of being connected to something Greater than myself while working in the Native style and on subjects from nature. I am bringing back to my family the truth of what we are, as I continue to explore my Metis heritage and express it through my Art. To paint images such as these can become a very deep, spiritual experience, drawing inspiration from the world around us and the power of nature. Painting reflects my dedication to Native art themes, and the way in which animals are to be depicted with reverence and care as the paintings are created. I have put a significant amount of heart and effort into creating these paintings.

There rests in my heart a certainty that more exists in all the world around than what our intellect & senses can tell us. Giving thanks to the sun just for coming up, offering tobacco to Lake Superior, honoring creation through my paintings, these things bring back answers from all my relations, the Dancing Cedars, the Flittering Woodpeckers, the Whispering Winds…..

Leah Marie Dorion is a Metis artist raised in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. A teacher, painter, filmmaker and published writer, Leah views her Metis heritage as providing her with a unique bridge for knowledge between all people.

An instructor at the Gabriel Dumont Institute in Prince Albert, Leah has degrees in Native Studies and Education. She has numerous creative projects to her credit including academic papers for the Royal Commission of Aboriginal Peoples, a children’s book, gallery showings of her art works, and numerous video documentaries that showcase Metis culture and history.

Leah’s paintings honour the spiritual strength of Aboriginal women and the sacred feminine. Leah believes that women play a key role in passing on vital knowledge for all of humanity. She believes women are the first teachers to the next generation.

10 Rules of Creativity:
1. Creativity is the natural order of life. Life is energy, pure, creative energy.
2. There is an underlying, in-dwelling creative force infusing all of life-including ourselves.
3. When we open ourselves to our creativity, we open ourselves to the creator’s creativity within us and our lives.
4. We are, ourselves, creations, and we, in turn, are meant to continue creativity by being creative ourselves.
5. Creativity is the Great Spirit’s gift to us. Using our creativity is our gift back to the great creator.
6. The refusal to be creative is self-will and is counter to our true nature.
7. When we open ourselves to exploring our creativity, we open ourselves to the great spirit of the universe.
8. As we open our creative channel to the creator, many gentle but powerful changes are to be expected.
9. It is safe to open ourselves up to greater and greater creativity.
10. Our creative dreams and yearnings come from a divine source. As we move toward our dreams, we move toward divinity.
“All my relations.”
Adapted from the Artist’s Way

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Yasmina permalink
    03/26/2012 7:38 am

    This page has provided endless inspiration for me! It is breathtaking to see artwork which is so positively glowing with the soul of the artist!
    How absolutely glorious!
    Thank you so much for sharing this the world, I am very glad I have seen this, I can only imagine how beautiful they must be in real life …

    • 03/26/2012 8:26 am

      Thanks for the great comment Yasmina.

      Yes, this artwork is incredibly vibrant, alive with spirit and deep with great meaning and symbolism. Definitely inspiring!


  2. Not Jack permalink
    09/16/2014 4:38 am

    thanks so much for sharing your beautiful art, as well as that of these other creative talents I am a big fan of Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun (coastal Salish), and have seen his paintings in the National Gallery (not that that makes them better, just that they have received a fair bit of exposure).

    wonderful site – thanks again.

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