Saturday, February 7, 2015

Simone McLeod about "Copper Thunderbird: The Art of Norval Morrisseau" at First Nations University of Canada (FNUC)

NORVAL MORRISSEAU, Red Lake; August 1966;
National Galery of Canada Archives

Norval Morrisseau

"I'm hardly an expert on him. I do however know hundreds of fellow aboriginal artists. I remember when I first started painting, off and on an "art dealer" would throw around the term "flooding the market" before he'd buy from me. Offering the suggestion or innuendo that I'd be better off if I painted a few paintings a year. Is it highly suspicious that this happened to be when the prices and sales of prints were skyrocketing. All I can say to that is that... the artists were NOT benefitting from this, and I guess we weren't the ones "flooding the market" and buying new homes and cars. 
Today I was silently sitting in at a speakers forum thing at FNUC listening to speakers on Morrisseau and his legacy. Oh my, it's amazing who crawls out of the woodwork claiming to be an expert on us when we're not here to dispute it.

I always have a bone to pick with those "flooding the market" preachers who have the nerve to claim that we are not humanly capable of painting more than 3,000 - 5,000 pieces of art in our lifetime. I find that this type of rhetoric only benefits those who try convince everyone it's true, giving them much leverage as they try drive the value of their own collections up.

One thing these fine people don't realize is that we artists talk to each other, we laugh, share, joke and occasionally squabble. We are family. We also paint for our people first. We paint to bring something beautiful out of sometimes chaotic lives. We paint to buy food or just to buy what we want which is really no one's business. When the non native executive is sitting in the bar getting drunk and no one passes judgment, why then is it anyone's business if the aboriginal artist is?

Sorry naysayers. It's true, Norval Morrisseau did paint over 10,000 beautiful works of art throughout his career. I'd bet my life on it. I've painted at least 7,000 - 9,000 pieces of art for my people, for all people and I've only been painting for 20 years. Stop the lies. It's time that living artists finally get some respect and credit for exactly how prolific we are."


Sitting there I found it pretty scary how a University Art Program actually has the ability to influence all the students who come out of a program. Everyone is expressing the same idea and learning to sit in the same curator's chair. How is it possible to emerge a free thinker when someone as common as me can walk into a gallery and tell you exactly who has "formal training" So to invite only "influential self proclaimed experts" who invest little more than an "expert endorsement" into each learning center, well tell me, how unbiased is that?

It seems to me that self taught Woodland Artists are and always will be in a league of our own. So now we need a term to describe both "Educated" through the formal funnelling process artists, and "Educated Through Ceremony and the Path of Life" artists who paint visions and dreams. How extraordinary to see just how deep money influences free speech and ill-perceived freedom of thought.

I challenge the University to now show another side to the Norval Morrisseau legacy, the side of the informally trained artist. It's about time we were recognized as well for to overlook us is equivalent to saying our "Oral Traditions" are nothing unless taught in a book.
Simone McLeod, February 2015

Links: (WEBSITE)
 (ART BLOG II).      


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