Friday, January 30, 2015

Barry Ace about Norval Morrisseau





"Perhaps more than any other Aboriginal artist in Canada, there is a voluminous collection of published and unpublished manuscripts and writings on the art of Norval Morrisseau. Yet today, we are no closer to arriving at an understanding of this larger-than-life Ojibway painter who remains shrouded under a veil of mystery and speculation. While many have sought to uncover the romanticized "Ishi-like" primitive who draws from his Ojibway heritage and secretive Midewiwin spiritual teachings, few have dared to venture into a critique of this complex man. Perhaps, even more poignantly, Morrisseau and those around him, were actively engaged in the mythic construction and public re/presentation of Morrisseau as a contemporary primitive.

A construct that has not only served as a mask to shelter undesirable influences of modernity, but also as a strategic marketing ploy that was incredibly successful in stimulating a lucrative art buying public, by offering them a rare opportunity to own a fragmentary glimpse of a mythical past. As the art buying public, dealers, and art institutions engaged in what can only be described as a Morrisseau “feeding frenzy”, the complexity involved in re-inventing, controlling and sheltering Morrisseau’s public and private spaces from the outside world became a hugely convoluted and contradictory task for all involved, including Morrisseau himself. The personal impact of this monstrosity of an illusion was so enormous, that few were immune from its negative impacts, and perhaps most tragically of all, was the toll it took on the physical and emotional state of Norval Morrisseau.

For many years following his arrival on the Canadian art scene, Morrisseau and those closest to him were mostly successful in shielding the constructed image of Norval Morrisseau from any outside critical scrutiny, but they were less successful in controlling and influencing internal cynicism and scrutiny from within his Ojibway cultural milieu and community. It is from this unique cultural vantage point that we can only now begin to meticulously unravel and dissect the very premise and raisonne d’etre behind the construction of this mythical Ojibway Medusa called Norval Morrisseau, where we find the primitive artist-asshaman mysteriously shrouded in a romanticized stasis existing simultaneously as a public dream and a private myth."

 For the continuation click here.

Note: This research is a must-read for anyone who wish to seriously study art and life of Norval Morrisseau.

~ For additional information click HERE.

* Research by Barry Ace titled "Norval Morrisseau: Artist As Shaman" posted on ACC/CCA website te; Barry Ace, born 1958, Anishinaabe (Odawa), a band member of the M’Chigeeng First Nation, Manitoulin Island, Ontario.
* Painting in this posting "Mishipeshieuw" © Norval Morrisseau posted on: " Norval Morrisseau and Medicine Painting" - a website by Paula Giese who was an Ojibwa from Minnesota; passed away in 1997.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Miigwetch for posting this paper. A good read about the human inside of the artist. Reading between the lines and the white, patronizing comments of Dewdney, (not meaning to be derogatory - the words reflect the essence of the predominant cultural of that time), one can begin to sense the impact of Norval`s residential school experience. Maybe some day we will be reading about that.

Nina Naumenko