New exhibition of ground-breaking First Nations art opens at Gallery

A major exhibition that will be shown in only four Canadian cities opens at the Kelowna Art Gallery this Thanksgiving weekend. 7: Professional Native Indian Artists Inc., organized and circulated by the MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina, Saskatchewan, features over sixty works of art by seven artists that will be on view to Kelowna audiences from October 11, 2014 to January 4, 2015.

In the early 1970s seven professional First Nations artists decided to join together and create a new Group of Seven for Canada – sometimes called the “Indian Group of Seven.” They wanted to win an audience for their work and challenge stereotypes about First Nations people working as contemporary artists. The seven artists are: Jackson Beardy (1944-1984); Eddy Cobiness (1933-1996); Alex Janvier (b. 1935); Norval Morrisseau (1932-2007); Daphne Odjig (b. 1919); Carl Ray (1943-1978); Joseph Sanchez (b. 1948). The artist among the seven most familiar to Okanagan audiences will be the award-winning Daphne Odjig, who has lived and worked in Penticton and now Kelowna for a number of years and has achieved a national reputation for her paintings.

A 360-page hardcover catalogue has been published to accompany the exhibition by the MacKenzie Art Gallery. It features texts by eight writers, including the curator of the show, Michelle LaVallee, along with numerous large, colour reproductions of works in the exhibition.

An opening reception to celebrate this exhibition will be held on Friday, October 17, 2014, from 7 to 9 pm, at the Kelowna Art Gallery. This is a free event, open to Gallery members and guests, by invitation.

The Kelowna Art Gallery would like to thank and acknowledge KPMG, Pushor Mitchell LLP, and BMO Financial Group, for their generous financial support for 7: Professional Native Indian Artists Inc.

A Conversation with the Artists event has been scheduled for Saturday, October 18, from 1 to 3 pm. Join exhibition curator Michelle LaVallee from the MacKenzie Art Gallery, and artists Alex Janvier and Joseph Sanchez, in conversation about 7: Professional Native Indian Artists Inc. This event is free and open to the public.

A special workshop entitled Freeing the Creative Mind will be led by artist Joseph Sanchez on Saturday, October 25, from 10 am to 4 pm. It will be a drawing and painting experience that frees the creative spirit and encourages a new aesthetic, one that is currently visible in much contemporary Native Art.

The Kelowna Art Gallery is located at 1315 Water Street in the heart of the cultural district in downtown Kelowna. For more information about current exhibitions, public programming or special events, please visit the Kelowna Art Gallery online at or call 250-762-2226.

Artists’ Biographies

The following artists’ biographies have been sourced from the MacKenzie Art Gallery’s media kit for 7: Professional Native Indian Artists Incorporated.

“It has become my deep, personal life goal to create an awareness of our culture within the public at large – thereby cementing stronger ties of mutual understanding for one country – one Canada.”

– Jackson Beardy

Jackson Beardy (1944–1984) was born on the Garden Hill Reserve (Island Lake, Manitoba) and was of Cree ancestry. Beardy studied commercial art at the Winnipeg Vocational School (1963–64) and later took art classes at the University of Manitoba. Throughout his career, Beardy served as a member of numerous arts organizations, including: National Indian Art Council, Ottawa; Prison Arts Foundation, Ottawa; Manitoba Arts Council, Winnipeg; and Canadian Artists Representation / le Front des artistes canadiens (CARFAC). He also served as the president of the Canadian Indian Artists Association and was founder and president of Ningik Arts (1972). He is the recipient of the Canadian Centennial Medal (1967), the Junior Achievement Award (1974), and the Outstanding Young Manitoban Award (1982).

Beardy has acted as art adviser and cultural consultant to the Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature (1971), the Department of Native Studies at Brandon University (1972), and the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (now Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada) (1981). While at DIAND, he authored Indian Fine Arts: A Policy and Programme to guide the programming and collecting of the department. A noted book illustrator, he was also contracted by the department to record and illustrate the “legends of the people” while travelling throughout the North. Beardy has received recognition for his work in Canada and Europe, including the retrospective exhibition Jackson Beardy: A Life’s Work at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in 1993. His work is held in numerous public and private collections, and has been exhibited in several group exhibitions, including: Treaty Numbers 23, 287, 1171, Winnipeg Art Gallery (1972) and New Work by a New Generation, MacKenzie Art Gallery (1982).

“I have met and worked with many talented young artists, who have so much to contribute to the world of visual art. I hope, by setting a good example myself, that someday you will get to know them too.”

– Eddy Cobiness

Eddy Cobiness (1933–1996) was born in Warroad, Minnesota and raised on Buffalo Point Reserve, Manitoba. Between 1954 and 1957, Cobiness served in the United States Army, where he became a Golden Gloves boxer and continued to draw and sketch during his leisure time. In 1980, he served as chairman of the First Annual Great Peoples PowWow in Sprague, Manitoba. He has also published his illustrations in two books: Alphonse Has an Accident (1974) and Tuktoyaktuk 2-3 (1975).

An Ojibway artist, Cobiness participated in several exhibitions as a member of PNIAI throughout the 1970s, including: Canadian Indian Art ’74, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto (1974); Indian Art ’75, Woodland Cultural Centre, Brantford (1975); and Colours of Pride:

Paintings by Seven Professional Native Artists / Fierté sur Toile, Dominion Gallery, Montreal (1975). His works have also been included in two recent group exhibitions: Frontrunners, co-organized by Winnipeg’s Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art and Urban Shaman Contemporary Art Gallery and Artist-Run Centre (2011); and My Winnipeg: There’s No Place Like Home, Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art (2012). His work is held in many prominent private collections worldwide including those of former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, Queen Elizabeth II, and former Manitoba Premier Edward Schreyer; and several public collections, including: Canadian Museum of Civilization (QC); Department of Indian and Northern Affairs (ON); McMichael Canadian Art Collection (ON); Royal Ontario Museum (ON); and Woodland Cultural Centre (ON).

“We wanted to change the world, the art world for Natives of Canada.”

– Alex Janvier

Alex Janvier (b. 1935) was born at Cold Lake First Nations, Alberta, and is of Dene Suline and Saulteaux heritage. In 1960, Janvier received his Fine Arts Diploma with Honours from the Alberta College of Art in Calgary, after which he worked as an art instructor at the University of Alberta (1961). Janvier was later hired as a cultural adviser to the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs (now Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada) and helped to establish cultural policy for the Cultural Affairs Program (1965). He was also appointed to the Aboriginal Advisory Committee for the Indians of Canada pavilion at Expo 67 in Montreal, where he painted a nine-foot circular mural titled Beaver Crossing Indian Colours.

Janvier has been the recipient of multiple honours, including: two Lifetime Achievement awards, from the Tribal Chiefs Institute, Cold Lake First Nations (2001) and the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation (2002); the Alberta Centennial Medal (2005); the Order of Canada (2007); the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts (2008); the Alberta Order of Excellence (2010); and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal (2013). Janvier has also received honorary doctorates from the University of Alberta (2008), the University of Calgary (2008), and Blue Quills First Nations College (2012). His work has been exhibited in many solo and group exhibitions including: ALEX JANVIER, Art Gallery of Alberta (2012); Treaty Numbers 23, 287, 1171, Winnipeg Art Gallery (1972); Indian Art

’74, Royal Ontario Museum (1974); Two Worlds, MacKenzie Art Gallery (1985); In the Shadow of the Sun, Canadian Museum of Civilization and the University of Würzburg, Germany (1989); Land Spirit Power, National Gallery of Canada (1992); and Honouring Tradition: Reframing Native Art, Glenbow Museum (2008). His work can be found in several prominent public and private collections.

“The Department of Indian Affairs once wanted to give me art lessons, but I refused. In my opinion this would spoil me, for there is no one who can teach me this kind of painting.”

– Norval Morrisseau

Norval Morrisseau (1932–2007) was raised on the Sand Point Reserve near Lake Nipigon and was of Ojibwa descent. Since his first solo exhibition at the Pollock Gallery, Toronto, in 1962, Morrisseau’s career has been marked by firsts. He was the only painter from Canada invited to exhibit in the Magiciens de la Terre / Magicians of the Earth exhibition at Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris (1989), and he was the first artist of First Nations descent to have a retrospective exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (2006). A recipient of numerous awards and honours in his lifetime, Morrisseau received the Canadian Centennial Medal (1968), was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Art (1973), and was inducted into the Order of Canada (1978). In 1980, he was awarded an

honorary doctorate by McMaster University. He was acknowledged as Grand Shaman of the Ojibway in Thunder Bay (1986) and honoured by the Assembly of First Nations Chiefs Conference in Ottawa (1995).

Morrisseau was among the artists selected to participate in the Indians of Canada pavilion at Expo 67 in Montreal. In 1971, Norval Morrisseau and fellow PNIAI member Carl Ray toured reserves and communities of Northern Ontario as part of a federally sponsored Northern Art Tour (1971–72). He was also featured in the National Film Board of Canada’s documentary The Colours of Pride (1973) with Alex Janvier and Daphne Odjig. In 1974, a documentary titled The Paradox of Norval Morrisseau was released by the National Film Board of Canada. Morrisseau wrote and illustrated Legends of My People, The Great Ojibway (1965) and co-authored Norval Morrisseau: Travels to the House of Invention (1997). His work has been exhibited in major solo and group exhibitions nationally and internationally, and is held in numerous prominent public and private collections.

“We acknowledged and supported each other as artists when the world of fine art refused us entry…Together we broke down barriers that would have been so much more difficult faced alone.”

– Daphne Odjig

Daphne Odjig (b. 1919) was born on Wikwemikong (Manitoulin Island) and is of Potawatomi and Odawa heritage. Odjig was admitted to the British Columbia Federation of Artists in 1963, and in 1970 she established Odjig Indian Prints of Canada Limited in Winnipeg. She served as a member of the board and instructor for the Manitou Arts Foundation on Schreiber Island, Ontario (1971). In 1973, Odjig received a Swedish Brucebo Foundation Scholarship and travelled as a resident artist to Sweden. Odjig has been the recipient of several awards and honours, including: the Canadian Silver Jubilee Medal (1977); an Eagle Feather on behalf of the Wikwemikong Reserve in recognition of her artistic accomplishment, an honour previously reserved for men (1978); the Order of Canada (1986); the National Aboriginal Achievement Award (1998); the Commemorative Golden Jubilee Medal (2002); the Order of British Columbia (2007); and the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts (2007). She has been awarded eight honorary doctorates, most recently by Algoma University, Sault Ste. Marie (2011).

In 1971, Odjig opened a small craft store in Winnipeg. This craft store was expanded in 1974 to create the New Warehouse Gallery, the first gallery owned and operated by a person of Aboriginal heritage in Canada. Two feature documentaries have been produced about Odjig’s life and work: Colours of Pride (1973) and The Life and Work of Daphne Odjig (2008). Odjig has written and illustrated a series of school readers, Nanabush Tales (1971), which are still included as part of the curriculum in elementary schools on Manitoulin Island. Several major exhibitions of her work have been organized, including the recent internationally touring retrospective, The Drawings and Paintings of Daphne Odjig, curated by Bonnie Devine and co-organized by the Art Gallery of Sudbury and the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (2007). Odjig’s work is held in many significant public and private collections, and has been exhibited widely both nationally and internationally.

“My paintings are an attempt to preserve the stories of my people…beautiful stories that have been handed down by word of mouth throughout the centuries by our ancestors.”

– Carl Ray

Carl Ray (1943–1978) was born on the Sandy Lake Reserve, Ontario, and was of Cree heritage. Ray completed commissioned work (alongside Norval Morrisseau) for the Indians of Canada pavilion at Expo 67, later receiving grants from the Canada Council (1969) and

the Department of Health and Welfare, Indian Affairs Branch (1971). In 1971, Ray was an instructor at the Manitou Arts Foundation’s summer art camps at Schreiber Island (ON) and editor of the Kitiwin newspaper in Sandy Lake (ON). The Government of Ontario and the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs (now Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada) sponsored the Northern Art Tour (1971–72), in which Ray and Norval Morrisseau toured through reserves and communities of Northern Ontario. Ray illustrated James Stevens’ book, Sacred Legends of the Sandy Lake Cree (1971), and also illustrated the cover of Tom Marshall’s book The White City (1976).

Ray has had solo exhibitions at Brandon University, Manitoba (1969); Confederation College, Thunder Bay (1970); Aggregation Gallery, Toronto (1972–77); Galerie Fore, Winnipeg (1972); and the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis (1972). His work has also been displayed in a number of group exhibitions with other PNIAI members, including two exhibitions at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery: The Art of the Anishnabe (1993) and Water, Earth and Air (1997). His work is held in numerous public and private collections. Major commissions include murals for the Sandy Lake Primary School, Ontario (1971) and the Sioux Lookout Fellowship and Communication Centre, Ontario (1973).

“Our cause was simple: to be able to exhibit and receive acceptance as artists.”

– Joseph Sanchez

Joseph Sanchez (b. 1948) was born in Trinidad, Colorado. He is an artist and curator of Spanish, German, and Pueblo descent currently residing in Santa Fe, New Mexico. From 1982–84 he served as a board member of the National Association of Artist Organizations. In 2010, Sanchez retired as Deputy Director and Chief Curator of the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts (formerly the Institute of American Indian Arts Museum), where he had worked since 2002. In 2011, Sanchez was the Contemporary Curator of the exhibition Native American Art at Dartmouth: Highlights from the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth University, Hanover, New Hampshire. Sanchez was the recipient of the Allan Houser Memorial Award for outstanding artistic achievement and community service in 2006 and was a curatorial partner for the 7th International Biennial at Site Santa Fe in 2008.

The only non-Canadian artist of the Professional Native Indian Artists Inc., Sanchez served in the United States Marine Corps before moving to Canada. He met Daphne Odjig in 1971 while living outside of Winnipeg in Richer, Manitoba, and was instrumental in the formation of the PNIAI. In 1975, Sanchez was repatriated under the Gerald Ford Presidential Amnesty and moved to Arizona, where he was involved with the formation of the artist groups MARS (Movimiento Artistico del Rio Salado) and Ariztlan in 1978. In 1983 Sanchez founded ARTS, a service to design exhibitions, provide curatorial services, administer collections, and provide consulting for individuals, artists, and museums. His work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions in Canada, Mexico, England, and the United States and is held in numerous public and private collections.

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