1080 Keewatin St,
Thunder Bay, ON, P7B 6T7

Blake Debassige

(1956 – 2022)

The Gallery is honoured to exhibit 17 works from our Permanent Collection by artist Blake Debassige, who passed away last year.


The Wind Spirit, 1976, acrylic on canvas, The Helen E. Band Collection, 1994.



Man Praying, c 1975, acrylic on paper, The Helen E. Band Collection, 1994.



The Couple, 1976, acrylic on canvas, The Helen E. Band Collection, 1994.

The Cross Hill, 1982, acrylic on canvas.
Purchased with the assistance of the Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation, 1986.

The Cross Hill (1982)

“This is the name of a place on the reserve. One story told is that the bearwalk would frequent this low-lying marsh. There had been sightings and experiences with what the people called the bearwalk. Some say that is why the white wooden cross was placed there on a high point of land. Some people still believe in that presence.” – Blake Debassige
Blake Debassige was an influential second-generation Woodland artist from M’Chigeeng First Nation on Manitoulin Island. He said that “art was part of what I was … and I set about to learn and use it as another form of speech and communication.” He is known for his muted tones, sinuous lines, and arresting figures that transmit a sense of cosmic order, interdependence, and purpose.
While Debassige was a respected painter of traditional Anishinaabeg legends and teachings, he was also dedicated to telling stories of unity, struggle, and disfunction. He is known for voicing social, economic, and political issues through his artwork, such as Indigenous language, sovereignty, youth suicide, and environmentalism. His blend of the past and present expanded the genre of Woodland style.
Many figures in these paintings live in our world and beyond it. Debassige had a lifelong fascination with Ojibwe mysticism and his paintings brim with spirituality and transformation.