Sunday, December 25, 2011

"Tree of Life" by Blake Debassige

/Collection of the Anishinabe Spiritual Center, Espanola, Ontario/

"Tree of Life", © Blake Debassige

"This painting is a celebration of life. It reflects a vision of life as seen through the story of the native community. The stylized owl, which is set atop the tree, reminds us that people are mortal. Death is part of our living. There are two representations of the Holy Trinity: Three birds sitting on the treetop and three circles above them. Birds are considered the medium by which the soul travels. So each bird represents the people who have died, but whose presence is still felt around us. The various faces within the tree represent the people living today, at various ages. When you count all the faces they add up to 12. Three figures on the lowermost branches: the animal-like form, the human form and the cocoon-shaped figure to the right represent the ancient culture and way of life of the people. They do not figure strongly in the mural but they are still present. Some of the ancient traditions and the language still remain, but there is much lost. The naked Christ is depicted as an Indian Christ, for the native peoples adopted him generations ago. He holds wild roses in his hands recalling the practice of giving flowers when a person dies. Two serpents appear as if through cracks and crevices in the earth with only the heads and tails visible. They represent temptation and the spirit of evil which exists in the world. Each one is grasping at small white butterflies but unable to secure them within their grasp. This is the reward for the dark side: futility. The tree itself is a Cedar, known for its medicinal purposes and respected by the people. It is well rooted, firmly founded and strong."

Blake Debassige

About the artist: Born in West Bay on Manitoulin Island, Ontario, in 1956, Blake Debassige is a member of the “second generation” of Ojibwa artists influenced by Norval Morrisseau. These artists are often referred to as the “ Woodland School ,” although Blake Debassige himself objects to the term. In his artwork, he has broadened the stylistic and thematic range of this group. Blake Debassige's paintings and graphics frequently investigate traditional Anishnaabe teachings about the nature of cosmic order, the cycles of the seasons and the interdependence of animal, plant, and human life, and the common principles at work in the world's great spiritual systems. He frequently relates these themes to highly contemporary problems such as the destruction of the environment, the alienation of Native youth, and family breakdown.-

Text: Anishinabe Spiritual Center /WASSEAN-DIMI-KANING (The Place of Enlightening), Espanola, Ontario/; Honor the Earth - a voice for the earth...a voice for those not heard
Image: NORVAL MORRISSEAU AND THE EMERGENCE OF THE IMAGE MAKERS; ISBN: 0-458-97390-4, Art Gallery of Ontario, 1984 /Methuen Publications/

* The painting in this post: "Tree of Life", 94"x47", © c. late 1970s Blake Debassige /Collection of the Anishinabe Spiritual Center, Espanola, Ontario/

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