Daphne Odjig

Odjig was born in 1919 on the Wikwemikong Reserve on Ontario’s Manitoulin Island to an Odawa father and English mother. Her artistic training began when rheumatic fever forced her to leave school at age 13. At home, her grandfather Jonas, a stone carver, and father Dominic nurtured her talent for drawing. Sometimes Jonas told traditional Potawatomi stories while they sketched and painted. The work that opened the door for her, the 1962 oil painting Theatre Queue, is telling: it has been described as an expressionist urban landscape depicting Odjig’s cultural isolation. By the mid-1960s she and her husband Chester Beavon had moved to northern Manitoba where he worked as development officer in the community of Easterville.  There she created a series of highly detailed, pen-and-ink drawings depicting community life, dog teams, cabins, fishing yawls, and such locals as Verna George and Patsy Wood. She then began depicting allegories and legends and illustrated a collection of school readers called Nanabush Tales, published in 1971. During this period Odjig’s style was most closely associated with Norval Morrisseau’s; the two, apparently working at first unbeknownst to one another, were seen as evidence of an “emergence” – a cultural shift, a new consciousness. But Odjig soon turned to history, becoming one of the first Aboriginal artists to address the colonial and post-colonial horrors visited upon her people. Odjig would come to create legend paintings, history murals, erotica, abstractions, and landscapes using a range of techniques and materials but settling on acrylic as her medium, the one she would push hardest and furthest. The result: an oeuvre and a voice that cannot be characterized as purely Aboriginal, Canadian, or European in influence. Her work is now in private and public collections across Canada. Odjig is a member of the Order of Canada and widely considered the “grandmother of Aboriginal art” in this country. She ran an Aboriginal art gallery in Winnipeg for many years, and founded the short-lived but influential group known as the “Indian Group of Seven”.  Odjig died in 2016.

Rodeo King
Acrylic and Ink on Paper
14" x 10"