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Norval Morrisseau Life & Work by Carmen Robertson

Following a career punctuated by groundbreaking Canadian and international art shows, Norval Morrisseau secured his significance within the history of Canadian art with a retrospective exhibition of his paintings at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa in 2006. Since that time, Morrisseau and his work have inspired theatrical plays, prose poetry, and contemporary dance performances. These have further entrenched his importance within Canada’s wider cultural imagination, and his visual vocabulary continues to influence Indigenous artists, suggesting that Morrisseau will have an enduring legacy in Canadian art.


Installation view of Norval Morrisseau’s Life Regenerating, 1977, and The Great Flood, 1975, in the Magiciens de la Terre exhibition at Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France, 1989


Key Group Exhibitions

1967

Expo 67, Indians of Canada Pavilion, Montreal, QC.

Three Hundred Years of Canadian Art, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, ON.

1974

Canadian Indian Art ’74, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, ON.

1975

Indian Art ’75, Woodland Indian Cultural Educational Centre, Brantford, ON.

1978

Art of the Woodland Indian, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinberg, ON. Travelled to Surrey, BC; St. Thomas, ON; North Bay, ON.

1984

Norval Morrisseau and the Emergence of the Image Makers, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto.

1985

Two Worlds, Norman MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina, SK.

1987

A Celebration of Contemporary Canadian Native Art, Southwest Museum, Los Angeles, CA, USA.

1989

In the Shadow of the Sun: Contemporary Canadian Indian and Inuit Art, Canadian Museum of Civilization (now Canadian Museum of History), Gatineau, QC. Travelled to Museum Ostwall, Dortmund, Germany; Museum für Kunst und Kulturegeschichte, Dortmund, Germany; Rijksmuseum Volkenkunde, Leiden, the Netherlands; Museon, The Hague, the Netherlands.

Magiciens de la Terre/Magicians of the Earth, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France.

1996

The Helen E. Band Collection, Thunder Bay Art Gallery, ON.

2000

Exposed: Aesthetics of Aboriginal Erotic Art, MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina, SK. Travelled to Ottawa Art Gallery, ON.

2005

About Face: Self-Portraits by Native American, First Nations, and Inuit Artists, Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, Santa Fe, NM, USA.

2013

7: Professional Native Indian Artists Inc., MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina, SK. Travelled to Winnipeg Art Gallery, MB; Kelowna Art Museum, BC; McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinberg, ON.

Before and After the Horizon: Anishinaabe Artists of the Great Lakes, National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, DC, USA. Travelled to Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto.



Key Solo Exhibitions

1962

Pollock Gallery, Toronto, ON.

1966

Musée du Québec, Quebec City.

1967

La Galerie Cartier, Montreal, QC.

1968

Art Gallery of Newport, Newport, RI, USA.

1969

Saint Paul Galerie, Saint-Paul de Vence, France.

1976

Pollock Gallery, Toronto, ON.

1983

Norval Morrisseau: Recent Work, Thunder Bay National Exhibition Centre, ON.

1987

O.M. Show, La Casa de la Raza, Santa Barbara, CA, USA.

1990

Norval Morrisseau: Paintings from the Glenbow Museum, Glenbow Art Gallery, Calgary, AB.

1994

Norval Morrisseau: Honouring First Nations, Kinsman Robinson Galleries, Toronto, ON.

2000

Norval Morrisseau: The Red Lake Years, Red Lake Museum, Red Lake, ON. Travelled to Thunder Bay Art Gallery, ON; Kinsman Robinson Galleries, Toronto, ON.

2001

Draw and Tell: Lines of Transformation by Norval Morrisseau/Copper Thunderbird, The Drawing Centre, New York, NY, USA.

2006

Norval Morrisseau—Shaman Artist: Retrospective Exhibition, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, ON. Travelled to Thunder Bay Art Gallery, ON; McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinberg, ON; National Museum of the American Indian, New York, NY, USA.



Selected Writings by Morrisseau


Morrisseau, Norval. Legends of My People: The Great Ojibway. Edited by Selwyn Dewdney. Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1965.


Morrisseau, Norval, and Donald Robinson. Norval Morrisseau: Travels to the House of Invention. Toronto: Key Porter Books, 1997.


Critical Interpretations



Cover of Legends of My People: The Great Ojibway, illustrated and told by Norval Morrisseau and edited by Selwyn Dewdney

Hill, Greg. Norval Morrisseau: Shaman Artist. Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada, 2006.


McMaster, Gerald. “The Anishinaabe Artistic Consciousness.” In Before and After the Horizon: Anishinaabe Artists of the Great Lakes, edited by David Penney and Gerald McMaster, 71–105. Washington, DC: National Museum of the American Indian, 2013.


Phillips, Ruth B. “Norval Morrisseau.” In St. James Guide to Native North American Artists, edited by Roger Matuz, 396–98. Detroit: St. James Press, 1998.


–––––. “Invoking Magic: Norval Morrisseau’s Art and Discursive Constructions of Art, Anthropology and the Postcolonial.” In Les Cultures à l’oeuvre: Rencontres en art, edited by Michèle Coquet, Brigitte Derlon, and Monique Jeudy-Ballini, 185–206. Paris: Biro Editeur, 2005.


–––––. “The Turn of the Primitive: Modernism, the Stranger and the ‘Indigenous Artist.’” In Exiles, Diasporas & Strangers, edited by Kobena Mercer, 46–71. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008.


Robertson, Carmen. “The Reel Norval Morrisseau: An Analysis of the National Film Board of Canada’s Paradox of Norval Morrisseau.” International Journal of Learning 11 (Fall 2005): 315–21.


–––––. “Body Politics: The Art of Norval Morrisseau.” Revue d’art canadienne/Canadian Art Review 32, nos. 1–2 (2007): 70–78.


–––––. “Thunderbirds and Concepts of Transformation in the Art of Norval Morrisseau.” Journal of Canadian Art History 33, no. 2 (2012): 53–70.


–––––. “Telling Stories on Canvas: An Analysis of Norval Morrisseau’s Visual Narratives.” In The Memory of Nature in Aboriginal, Canadian and American Contexts, edited by Françoise Besson, Claire Omhovère, and Heliane Ventura, 304–16. Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014.


–––––. Norval Morrisseau Mythologies: Art and the Colonial Narrative in the Canadian Media. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 2016.



Audio and Video

There are many websites related to Norval Morrisseau, but a good number do not contain reliable information. Here are a few resources in which Norval Morrisseau provides background on his own work.


Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. “Dancing to Morrisseau.” May 10, 2012. Audio interview, 1.43 min. http://www.cbc.ca/player/News/Arts+and+Entertainment/Audio/
ID/2233107390/?page=14&sort=MostRecent
.


Still image of Norval Morrisseau from The Paradox of Norval Morrisseau, produced by the National Film Board of Canada in 1974

Carvalho, Paul. A Separate Reality: The Life and Times of Norval Morrisseau. Montreal: Perception Films, 2004. Documentary, 53 min. An eight-minute video is available at http://vimeo.com/23935563.
Three excerpts from the video are available at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNIs2Fi_iYg;
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcznBdkZMEs;
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxOXXEI2jGE.


Henning Jacobsen Productions Limited. The Colours of Pride. Directed by Henning Jacobsen. Montreal: National Film Board of Canada, 1973. Documentary film, 27 min.


–––––. The Paradox of Norval Morrisseau. Directed by Henning Jacobsen and Duke Redbird. Montreal: National Film Board of Canada, 1974. Documentary film, 28 min.



Plays, Animation, and Poetry


Drama

Clements, Marie. Copper Thunderbird. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2007.


National Arts Centre English Theatre/Urban Ink Productions. Copper Thunderbird Study Guide. 2006–2007. http://www4.nac-cna.ca/pdf/eth/0607/copper_thunderbird_guide.pdf.


Animation

Coyes, Gregory, and Tantoo Cardinal. Stories from the Seventh Fire: Four Stories Told for Four Seasons. Kelowna, BC: Storytellers Production Inc., 2002. Animated film, 112 min.


Stories of the Seventh Fire Media Kit. Artwork by Norval Morrisseau. 1998–2002.
http://www.reelgirlsmedia.com/printfiles/media/SeventhFire.pdf.


Promotional introduction to Stories of the Seventh Fire.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNfE0t5Uxp0.


Poetry

Cover of exhibition catalogue Norval Morrisseau: Shaman Artist, curated by Greg Hill for the National Gallery of Canada in 2006

Ruffo, Armand Garnet. “Norval Morrisseau: Man Changing into Thunderbird.” In Norval Morrisseau: Shaman Artist, edited by Greg Hill, 80–92. Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada, 2006.


Ruffo, Armand Garnet. The Thunderbird Poems. Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing, 2015.


Creative Non-Fiction

Ruffo, Armand Garnet. Norval Morrisseau: Man Changing into Thunderbird. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 2014.



Further Reading



Berlo, Janet, and Ruth B. Phillips. Native North American Art. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.


Dewdney, Selwyn. Sacred Scrolls of the Southern Ojibway. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1975.


Doerfler, Jill, Niigaawewidam James Sinclair, and Heidi Kiiwetinepinesiik Stark, eds. Centering Anishinaabeg Studies: Understanding the World Through Stories. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press, 2013.


Hume, Christopher. “The New Age of Indian Art.” Maclean’s, January 22, 1979: 21–28.


Lavallee Michelle, ed. 7: Professional Native Indian Artists Inc. Regina: MacKenzie Art Gallery, 2014.


Cover of the 1969 book Windigo and Other Tales of the Ojibways, edited by Dr. Herbert T. Schwarz with illustrations by Norval Morrisseau

McLuhan, Elizabeth, and Tom Hill. Norval Morrisseau and the Emergence of the Image Makers. Toronto: Methuen, 1984.


Penner-Polle, Christine, and Reggie Bacon, eds. Norval Morrisseau and the Woodland Artists: The Red Lake Years, 1959–1980. Red Lake, ON: Red Lake Heritage Centre, 2008.


Penney, David W., and Gerald McMaster. Before and After the Horizon: Anishinaabe Artists of the Great Lakes. Washington, DC: National Museum of the American Indian, 2013.


Phillips, Ruth B. “Messages from the Past: Oral Traditions and Contemporary Woodland Art.” In The Shadow of the Sun: Perspectives on Contemporary Native Art. Mercury Series 0316-1854. Canadian Ethnology Service 124. Gatineau, QC: Canadian Museum of Civilization, 1993.


Sinclair, Lister, and Jack Pollock. The Art of Norval Morrisseau. Toronto: Methuen, 1979.


Stevens, James R. A Picasso from the North Country: The Wild Journey of Canadian Artist Norval Morrisseau. Thunder Bay, ON: Ahnisnabae Art Gallery, 2011. This is a self-published book.


Wilson, Jessica, and Gaye Sihin. Copper Thunderbird: The Art of Norval Morrisseau. Toronto: Westerkirk Works of Art, 2012.