First American Art Magazine No. 21, Winter 2018/19 - Page 75

REVIEWS Janvier has critiqued natural resource exploitation and environmental degradation. In response to the Lubicon Lake land rights controversy, he painted the background of Lubicon (1988) blood red. The otherwise colorful Oil Patch Heart Beat (2013) appears dirtied by black paint seeping from its edges. However, in a reflection of the very complicated relationships that develop among different markets, Janvier (like many artists) has also benefited from oil- and gas-related arts patronage: he has completed commissions for Esso and his works are in the Shell corporate collection. While this does provide tangible support for artists, cultural support may be read by some as hollow gestures to distract from greater transgressions. Gallery didactics must be kept short, but some labels for individual paintings neared romanticization of history in a quest for brevity. Our Lady of the Teepee (1950) and Sacred Heart (1952) appear like Indigenized Roman Catholic icons, clearly the result of parochial residential school—and assimi- lation. The wall label for the latter stated only, “A commission for the Blue Quills Indian Residential School chapel, Sacred Heart was created when the artist was a teenager. Although Janvier is mostly known for his abstract works, he has often incorporated figurative elements in his paintings throughout his career.” This was a missed opportunity to address cultural genocide, forced conversion, and perhaps what the artist was and was not allowed to paint during his time at Blue Quills. Indeed, on the back of Blood Tears (2001), Janvier wrote out some of the losses and traumas faced by survivors of residential schools. He was told Indian ways were the “work of the devil” and that his grandparents were “evil,” and he noted punishments were severe. As a young artist, Janvier was accepted to study art in London, England. But the Canadian Department of Indian Affairs refused him permission. 1 Despite numerous obstacles, he has prevailed to become one of Canada’s best-known artists. His advocacy set many precedents for Indigenous artists. In 1962 Janvier was prompted to sign his works with his nation’s treaty number, 287, in response to a government contract that denigrated Indigenous art as mass-produced kitsch. He ceased this small protest in 1977 when he went to Sweden for a residency. Janvier advised the board in the creation of the Indian Pavilion at Expo 67, which was at the forefront of bringing light to systemic oppression against Indigenous peoples. 2 He was part of the Professional Native Indian Artists, Inc. with Jackson Beardy (Anishinini, 1944–1984), Eddy Cobiness (Buffalo Point Ojibwe, 1933–1996), Norval Morrisseau (Bingwi Neyaashi Ojibwe, 1932–2007), Daphne Odjig (Odawa-Potawatomi, 1919–2016), Carl Ray (Sandy Lake Cree, 1943–1978), and Joseph Sanchez (Tewa descent). 3 While not overtly political, he asserts a voice of resistance through mixing Dene cosmology with formal cues from artists such as Wassily Kandinsky and Joan Miró. After Norval Morrisseau in 2006 and Daphne Odjig in 2009, Janvier is only the third Indigenous artist to be honored with a solo retrospective exhibition by the National Gallery of Canada. Each major show brings more awareness and nuance to larger conver- sations. For what he endured and what he continues to create, Mr. Janvier has more than earned his place in the international art scene. Alex Janvier: Modern Indigenous Master was at Glenbow June 16 to September 9, 2018. A full-color catalogue is available, with essays by Greg A. Hill, Lee-Ann Martin (Mohawk), and Chris Dueker. —Andrea L. Ferber, PhD 1. “Alex Janvier: In Conversation,” interview by Greg Hill, National Gallery of Canada, November 26, 2016, video, 39:19, posted March 2, 2017, web. 2. International and Universal Exposition in Montreal, Quebec, 1967. 3. A Winnipeg newspaper gave this group the moniker Indian Group of Seven as an Indigenous counterpart to the Canadian Group of Seven landscape painters active decades earlier. Bill Reid (Haida, 1920–1998) was later, informally, added to the group. CARLISLE, PENNSYLVANIA Resisting the Mission Trout Gallery, Dickinson College D IMLY LIT AND SOMBER, Trout Gallery’s exhibition of Resisting the Mission is a powerful display of determi- nation and survival standing in the form of Cherokee baskets crafted by the deft hands of Shan Goshorn (Eastern Band Cherokee). An intimate setting, the gallery presented a selection of baskets that address the history of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. The gallery’s dark turquoise walls provided a dramatic backdrop to the delicate basketry forms, each set apart on a pedestal protected by a clear vitrine. The exhibition is the premiere installation of Resisting the Mission: Filling the Silence, a series of seven pairs of tall baskets, each set featuring the before-and-after photos taken as evidence of the “civilization” of tribal students who attended Carlisle and interwoven with historical texts related to Carlisle. Most of the other baskets are borrowed from public and private collections, including Goshorn’s first basket on the topic, Educational Genocide (2011), on loan from the Montclair Art Museum in New Jersey. Goshorn was moved by the emotional response to the first basket, which spurred her to address the topic more fully and create the work on exhibition. The solemnity of each basket necessitated a slow passage through the gallery, allowing for a close reading of the text, a careful look at the photographs, and absorption of the complex and emotional potency of the project. Two baskets were of particular interest for their innovative approach to the topic of forced assimi- lation. The Fire Within is a basket in the form of a seven-pointed star, symbolic of the seven clans of the Cherokee people. The structure is a unique development by Goshorn as a form of Cherokee basketry. The vaulted structure’s exterior is formed from three bands: a band of black at the top and bottom printed with the Indian Removal Act of 1830, and a wide central band of red that includes the names of WINTER 2018/19 | 73