Norval Morrisseau: Works from the Permanent Collection
Norval Morrisseau (1932-2007) was one of the most innovative artists of the twentieth century. His beliefs, experiences, and challenges are evocatively portrayed in his art. Morrisseau’s life and experiences are also recounted in poet and literary scholar Armand Ruffo’s biography Norval Morrisseau: Man Changing into Thunderbird (2014). Hence, this exhibition charts the Morrisseau’s artistic trajectory featuring paintings from different stages of his career from the Gallery’s permanent collection.
Paintings from the 1960s showcase the artist’s use of interconnected power lines. Vibrant canvases from the 1970s onwards chart the artist’s work towards the creation of the painting style commonly known as the Woodland School of art and his exploration of what the artist called “the healing power of colour.” The Thunderbird appears in both early and later works, underscoring Morrisseau’s enduring identification with the powerful spirit being, which often represents transformation.
An internationally known and award-winning artist, some of Morrisseau’s achievements include his membership in Professional Native Indian Artists Inc. (PNIAI) and his reception of honorary doctorates from Lakehead University and McMaster University. In the mid-1960s, Morrisseau was one of nine Indigenous artists commissioned to create work for the Indians of Canada Pavilion at Expo 1967. He designed a large-scale mural for one of the pavilion’s exterior wall that his friend and fellow artist Carl Ray (1943-1978) wound up completing. In 1973, Morrisseau was made a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Art. His work is located in numerous private and public collections around the world.
As a special event coordinated for this exhibition in partnership with the Thunder Bay Public Library, Ruffo will read from his book Norval Morrisseau: Man Changing into Thunderbird at the Gallery on Sunday, April 14, 1 pm.
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