In early February there was a symposium and book launch at First Nations University of Canada tied to the career of First Nations artist Norval Morrisseau. Of Anishinaabe descent, Morrisseau was born on the Sand Point Ojibway reserve near Beardmore, ON in 1931. As a child, he attended a Catholic-run residential school, but through his maternal grandfather, who was a shaman, he learned the traditions and legends of his people.
When Morrisseau was 19, he experienced a life-threatening illness, and through contact with a medicine woman was given the name Copper Thunderbird. When he began making art, he used the signature Copper Thunderbird to identify his work.
Morrisseau was one of the founders of the Woodland School of Art, and was also a member of the Indian Group of Seven. In the fall of 2013 the MacKenzie Art Gallery had an exhibition of work by those artists curated by Michelle LaVallee.
Nicknamed “the Picasso of the North”, Morrisseau’s art celebrated indigenous spiritality and mysticism, along with exploring the divide between First Nations and Canadian culture. At First Nations University in February a book launch was held for Armand Garnet Ruffo’s biography of Morrisseau, who died in Toronto in 2007 at age 76.
In addition to the book (cover image above) an exhibition of Morrisseau’s paintings is on display at the university’s Plain Red Art Gallery until April 10. You can find out more information here.