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A young Indian artist currently studying at the Cultural College in Saskatoon, Raymond McCallum, specializes in facial portraits. The careful rendering of the facial aspects in his portraits provide the viewer with his impression of the character of his subject. Raymond is a Cree from the Meadow Lake reserve.
paintings loaned courtesy of
Dr. John Warner
Editor's note - Today an Indian artist is considered successful when he reaches the point where his work is given a showing in such large centres as Toronto, New York and London. Even the young Indian artist just building his reputation is forced to take his work to the larger urban centres and the professional art shop. There are no art galleries on Saskatchewan reserves and if there has ever been provision for travelling art exhibits to the reserves, we have yet to hear of it. The Indian artist's reputation, and his living, is made in the White Man's world and often word of his success does not even get back to his own people. It is with the intention of sharing with the Indian people of Saskatchewan the successes of some of their own artists that the Saskatchewan Indian Cultural College has helped to underwrite the costs of this special colour feature in the Saskatchewan Indian. We apologize in advance for not having included samples from all our top artists but space and costs simply would not permit it. We hope in future, however, to continue featuring the work of Saskatchewan Indian artists in the pages of the Saskatchewan Indian. A special thanks to Dr. John Warner, associate professor of sociology at the University of Saskatchewan, for writing the accompanying article with this feature and for loaning us the paintings featured. Thanks also to those artists who have also loaned us their work for this issue.
Painting has been and is becoming an ever more noteworthy aspect of the Saskatchewan Indian cultural scene. In recent years a number of very fine painters have emerged to attract attention not only in this province but in the rest of the nation and aborad as well. No doubt the most spectacular example of this has been the wonderful success of Allen Sapp's work in the art galleries of Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Los Angeles, and London, England. His artistic and financial achievements have shown that the production of Saskatchewan's native painters can be accorded world wide acclaim. This is a matter of pride for all Saskatchewan Indians.
Most prairie painting, particularly that in Saskatchewan, tends to be realistic in character. That is to say, the art work portrays people and things as they really are. That is especially so with regard to the faithful reproduction of nature scenes. Sometimes, as in the case of Allen Sapp, there will be some impressionist technique which overlays this sense of realism in the painting. Nonetheless, most Saskatchewan painters prefer to render stories and scenes as they might actually appear in true reality.
This realism is the product, in part, of an exposure to the popular art of the white man's world. Ever since the fateful trips of such white artists as George Catlin, Carl Bodmer, and Paul Kane to the Plains area in the 1830s and 1840s, the painting of Plains artists has tended to become ever more realistic. With the advent of reserve life and the partial deculturation of once nomadic tribes, their arts - as with other elements of their culture - have experienced the effect of culture contact with a surrounding white milieu. The omnipresent examples of the white man's creativity - particularly with respect to European realism and romanticism - were not without effect on the imagination of Plains Indian painters. But Plains artists have taken this kind of realist perspective and the concept of art for art's sake and wedded it to a unique imagination of their own. The hybrid form of art which results from this fusion is one with whole new dimensions of meaning and beauty. I might say that the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts.
Some art critics have alleged that Saskatchewan Indian painting is indistinguishable from white counterparts. I do not think that such a statement is entirely accurate. No non-Indian would have quite the same feeling for color, nature, and Indian life as the native painters themselves. While there are similarities to the work of white illustrators, the differences are of an important order.
Indian painting, generally speaking, is making great strides right now in Canada. In Manitoba, for example, a number of native painters have joined together in order to form an Indian 'Group of Seven' association: Daphne "Odjig" Beavon, Norval Morriseau, Carl Ray, Jackson Beardy, Eddy Cobbiness, Alex Janvier, and Sanchez. Together they will seek to market their works throughout Canada and the world and promote an awareness of this great Indian heritage. While important progress has been made of late, Canada has been slow to recognize the talent and achievement of its native painters. While the Indian Pavilion at Expo '67 did contain the works of a number of artists, the National Gallery in Ottawa still does not own or exhibit any works by Canadian native peoples. This will have to change.
Saskatchewan painters might be well advised to follow the example of their Manitoba colleagues. Many painters in this province still rely upon trying to sell their own work by themselves and this is a difficult and awkward thing to have to do. Most painters are not businessmen and do not always know how to deal with a sometimes bewildering and complex white world. This will have to be remedied. After all, when an Indian painter produces canvases, he is in the white art world in a defactor sense and most (if not virtually all) of the customers for his work are white. It is a strange anomaly that Indian people themselves, for whatever reasons, do not seem to own many works of their own artists. Therefore, insofar as being a painter automatically connotes dealing with the white marketplace, I think it would benefit Saskatchewan artists to have more effective ways of dealing with that world.
Today the subject matter emphasis for most artists is upon nostalgie remembrances of the historic past and nature scenes. Even Sapp's efforts to recall the real life of his people on the reserves of the Battlefords' area of a few years ago are not common as yet. Much less, there is little in the way of what we might term contemporary social commentary in painting - such as that which might deal with problems like poverty, health, alcoholism, Indian militance, and so on. As J. J. Brody has pointed out in his book, Indian Painters and White Patrons, it would seem that in the future we will witness much more of this kind of art as a younger generation of painters comes to maturity in new times. Certainly the FSI's Indian Cultural College in Saskatoon may have a very worthy contribution to make regarding the training and encouraging of the next generation of native painters. Under the guidance of excellent artists like Sarain Stump, many new and exciting things are promised for the future.
Be that as it may, what we have now is an art output worthy of respect and appreciation by all.
The great granddaughter of Chief Dan Kennedy, Lucibelle Sorenson likes to recreate scenes from the past in her paintings. She generally paints prairie scenes from Carry The Kettle reserve, and does a few mountain scenes when requested to.
(left) [Sanford Piece on Page 30]
A Cree Indian from Gordons Reserve, Sanford Fisher has a very natural talent. Although he has no formal training, he paints beautiful scenes about the Indian past. He is a romantic painter with a distinctive technique for mixing color and a unique imagination of his own.
Sanford began painting a few years ago with his right arm. Then because of a gun shot wound, he had to switch to his left arm. He switched back to his right arm when his left arm was amputated because of cancer. Even after all the trouble with his arms, Sanford's painting technique did not alter. They are even more brilliant now than before.
Recently, he began painting scenes from his own life on the reserve where his 8 children now attend the school. Sanford himself resides in Regina, where he does a wide range of paintings to accommodate his customers.
In August 1973, a group of people from Regina visited China and presented one of his paintings to the Chinese. The painting, of his own people at work, was presented by Rose and Rod Bishop and now hangs in the Minorities Institute, Peking.
Tommy Charles, a twenty-one year old Native of East Trout Lake, has recently enrolled in the art classes at the Saskatchewan Indian College to further his artistic training. Tommy already has training from Banff School of Fine Arts. He also taught art at the Art Centre in Prince Albert.
Tommy, totally blind in his right eye, enjoys using all types of medium. His pictures favour northern wilderness landscapes and abstracts.
Lucille Bell has been working with ink portraits, sketching and painting for the last five years. She has had experience as a commercial artist for three years.
Lucille and her husband Ron both study at the University of Saskatchewan in Regina. She is enrolled in a four-year Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree program.
Originally a member of the John Smith Band, Lucille is employed as a Saskatchewan Indian reporter for the Regina-Ft. Qu'Appelle areas but continues her art work in her spare time.
Mike Lonechild, 17, from the White Bear Reserve, is a student at the Student's Residence on Gordons Reserve. His paintings are of traditional scenes and tend to be realistic with a heavy overlay of impression that is very pronounced.
Originally from the Poundmaker Reserve, Henry Beaudry is a great grandson of Chief Poundmaker. He is a self-taught artist who prefers to work on smooth surface boards. He is interested in history and enjoys painting of the life of the Plains Cree of the past. His paintings are very realistic and show great originality.
Henry was in the World War II, as part of the Italian campaign. He was captured by the Germans outside Venice and was a prisoner of war until the end when he was liberated. He is the official flag raiser at patriotic functions in the North Battleford area.
Henry now resides on the Mosquito Reserve, his wife's home reserve.
Noel Wuttunee, from the Red Pheasant Reserve, has been a professional artist for several years. He now operates his own art gallery in Winnipeg.
[Artwork on Page 38]
While on a dance tour in Europe, Wayne Goodwill visited the Museum of Man in Paris and was inspired by their display of hide paintings. With the help of John Warner, Wayne learned the technique of painting on hides and has since become very successful. He also does oil painting on canvas and is successful at both.
Wayne, a Sioux Indian from the Standing Buffalo Reserve, is on the band council there, welfare worker on the reserve, and he farms his own land.
A champion Pow-Wow dancer, he travels to numerous pow-wows with his wife and two children.
[Artwork on Page 39]
Allan Sapp is a Cree Indian from the Red Pheasant Reserve where he was raised by his grandmother. As a child, he spent a lot of time in hospitals and at home recuperating from spinal meningitis. He spent a short time at Onion Lake School but he rejected the whiteman's knowledge and returned home to his grandparents.
Later he married Margaret Paskamin of Sweetgrass and moved to North Battleford where he began to paint.
He learned to paint with the help of Mrs. Elaine Berrymen, owner of an art shop. She taught him the rudiments of oil painting. He sold paintings from door to door until Dr. Allen Gonner of North Battleford became his manager.
He began to receive tutoring from Winona Mulcaster, a Saskatoon artist, who helped him to perfect his techniques, but not alter his fundamental style.
Allan developed confidence in his style and has had many successful exhibitions of his work in Toronto, Los Angeles and London, England.
Due to the excellent promotion of his work, Allan is becoming very well known as an artist. He is a pioneer of Indian art in Saskatchewan and has opened the door for many others. He has brought attention and legitimatized Indian art in the province by his success.
In his painting Allan portrays a remembrance of his childhood years during the 1930's and 1950's in the Battleford area.
His work is easily recognizable by his style. His paintings are realistic and suggest forms and shapes rather than pronouncing them.