Mythologizing Norval Morrisseau

Mythologizing Norval Morrisseau

Art and the Colonial Narrative in the Canadian Media

Book - 2016
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"Mythologizing Norval Morrisseau" examines the complex identities assigned to Anishinaabe artist Norval Morrisseau. Was he an uneducated artist plagued by alcoholism and homelessness? Was Morrisseau a shaman artist who tapped a deep spiritual force? Or was he simply one of Canada's most significant artists?Carmen L. Robertson charts both the colonial attitudes and the stereotypes directed at Morrisseau and otherIndigenous artists in Canada's national press. Robertson also examines Morrisseau's own shaping of his image.An internationally known and award-winning artist from a remote area of northwestern Ontario, Morrisseau founded an art movement known as Woodland Art developed largely from Indigenous and personal creative elements. Still, until his retrospective exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada in 2006, many Canadians knew almost nothing aboutMorrisseau's work.Using discourse analysis methods, Robertson looks at news stories, magazine articles, and film footage, ranging from Morrisseau's first solo exhibition at Toronto's Pollock Gallery in 1962 until his death in 2007 to examine the cultural assumptions that have framed Morrisseau.
Publisher: Winnipeg, Manitoba : UMP, University of Manitoba Press, [2016]
ISBN: 9780887558108
Branch Call Number: 759.21 M88ro
Characteristics: vii, 221 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm


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Jan 10, 2018

Author and Art History Professor Carmen Robertson wryly observed that “there’s not a doorknob that hasn’t been studied in Italy”, yet there’s an incredibly rich history of contemporary Indigenous artists in Canada and “so, so many of them need to be written about.” Her study of Norval Morrisseau is an important contribution to the massive challenge of documenting our Indigenous Art History.
Tales of Morrisseau’s personal life have always overshadowed his genius. But unlike the fixation on Caraivaggio’s violence, Van Gogh’s madness, or Pollock’s alcoholism, Morrisseau had the added burden of constantly being judged through the lens of colonialism and racism. I probably have little in common with the author’s worldview, and cringed as she invoked the name of French philosopher Michel Foucault no less than five times in her introduction, yet I enjoyed her text. Robertson is an important voice and I look forward to hearing more.
Fans of Morrisseau or Robertson can check out her free, downloadable book on the great Copper Thunderbird at:

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