October 22, 2008

The Indian Group of Seven

Daffy over Daphne

One of the 'Indian Group of Seven,' painter Odjig is at Yorkville's Gallery Gevik It is healthy, I think, to expand your cultural horizons beyond hockey pools, draft beer and dancing girls.

At least once in a while.

For me, that means native art. Or Indian art or aboriginal art or woodlands art or First Nations art, Anishinabe art or whatever you call it these days.

I bet you didn't know there was even an Indian Group of Seven, brief but bright, in the 1970s.

Norval Morrisseau was the brilliant bad boy of the group. Very bad.
And:Then there's Odjig, the only woman of the seven.

Odjig is the yin to Morrisseau's yang, pure as the driven snow that will soon wrap Wikwemikong, where she was born 89 years ago.

Well, not too pure.

"Sex," she says when smiling for the camera. She flirts like a schoolgirl. She's been known to play the slots.

Thirty years ago she illustrated Tales from the Smokehouse, a book of native erotica.

Few of those paintings could appear in a family newspaper, but the originals sell for $50,000 each. The book has a sort of cult status.

So Odjig, whose dad was Potawatomi, her mom an English war bride, is no prude.
And: They have just given her an honorary degree. Yet another. To go with her Order of Canada and last year's Governor General's Award and a drawer full of other ribbons, medals and citations.

An overnight success. After 60 years. It took Morrisseau about 60 minutes.

"Maybe I should have been a streetwalker in downtown Vancouver," Odjig says, with a twinkle in her deep brown eyes. "Might have got more attention."

Maybe. But Odjig's work now outsells Morrisseau's. For one thing, there's never any doubt who painted it.

She is arguably among Canada's three greatest women artists, with Emily Carr and Doris McCarthy.
Below:  Some of Daphne Odjig's art.

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