Famous artist Norval Morrisseau was the topic of conversation when Jessica Wilson and Gaye Sihin stopped by the Red Lake Regional Heritage Centre last Friday. Representing Westerkirk Works of Art out of Toronto, the two are visiting the area in search of told and untold stories about the man who lived in Red Lake from 1959 to 1973.
“We are here doing research for two projects,” explained Wilson on November 11th. “The first project is we are putting on an exhibit with the Assembly of First Nations for their Annual General Assembly next year in Toronto. We work for an organization that has a collection of Norval Morriseau paintings and we are doing some research for a catalogue that is coming out.”
The second project Sihin says is a little less defined. The pair is looking to record interviews with district residents who interacted with the late artist during his time in Red Lake. “Similar to what happened today it is another medium to document and archive information and maybe one day we will have a documentary.”
Morrisseau lived in the Red Lake district for 13 years and spent much of his time depicting Ojibway legends on birchbark, plywood, mill paper, and canvas, some of which can be found in private collections of local or former area residents. Since his death in 2007 Morrisseau’s work has become well known around Canada and now Wilson says the unique style is spreading internationally.
“We really believe he is a pioneer with a truly unique style that is inspiring a whole generation and movement of artists and it is very rare to say that,” characterized Wilson when asked why study Morriseau. “In our own country we are learning about how his art has spread into Europe and his style. People are collecting his work all over the world. We really believe he is more important than he has been given credit for, even though the National Gallery has given him a show, I think that you can’t do enough to promote his art work.”
The duo will be splitting their time between Sioux Lookout and Red Lake until December 7th and encourage all who have a story to tell about interactions with the man to seek them out to be part of the current project. “We came to Red Lake in the hopes that we would meet lots of people who have had experiences with Norval when he lived here and also we would like to learn more about the legend of the area to help us interpret his art,” said Sihin.
Wilson adds no story is too inconsequential. “I think even if they don’t think it is important, like Norval just stopped by one day and grabbed a cup of tea and tried to sell his art work – we want to hear that story.”
The art enthusiasts can be reached by calling (416) 903-4293, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or through the Red Lake Regional Heritage Centre.