Carl Beam’s groundbreaking work The North American Iceberg, 1985, became the first piece by an artist from a First Nations community to be purchased by the National Gallery of Canada as contemporary art. In this book, the artist’s daughter, author Anong Beam, offers a profound portrait of her father’s life and a chronicle of his extraordinary multimedia practice. Privy to unprecedented access, she shares how, born in 1943 on Manitoulin Island to an Anishinaabe mother and American father, Beam was raised by his maternal grandparents and attended a residential school from age ten to eighteen. His formal art studies began when he enrolled in the Kootenay School of Art in British Columbia, before attending the University of Alberta.


Beam’s career was transformed in the 1970s, when the Anishinaabe artist Norval Morrisseau (1931–2007) created the visual style known as the Woodlands School that dominated conversations about Indigenous art. Forging his own style, Beam was also inspired by American artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, and Andy Warhol. Responding to their innovative mixed-media techniques, he developed a new platform to speak out about colonial violence and the resilience of Indigenous Peoples.


“At the vanguard of contemporary Indigenous art, Beam’s work broke from a racist paradigm by insisting upon new modes of representation expressing urgent contemporary themes and issues facing Indigenous peoples. His interest lay in experimenting with and adapting current styles and techniques. Above all, he was an advocate for artistic agency irrespective of limiting categories based on race.”Anong Beam


Although Beam’s life was tragically cut short in 2005 at the age of sixty-two, it was not before his reputation was cemented as one of the most important artists in the nation’s history and a prominent advocate for Indigenous rights.



Anong Migwans Beam is a painter from M’Chigeeng First Nation on Manitoulin Island. She was born to artist parents Carl Beam and Ann Beam and was raised with a meaningful connection to her artistic familial roots and rich ancestral heritage. Alongside her art practice, Beam has been actively involved in her local community and in curatorial work. In 2017, she became the Executive Director of the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation. The same year, she launched BEAM paints, producing her own line of watercolour and oil paints.

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