Oh! It was startling to see Ms Odjig’s photo on the Globe and Mail’s Obituaries page today. It’s not that she hasn’t lived a long, fruitful life. It’s just sad to see another great Canadian artist pass on.
I first saw her work in a school hallway in the north end of Winnipeg. It was a framed print; I wish I had asked how the school came to own it. I don’t remember the image, but I do remember that I liked her style immediately. Maclean’s Magazine/The Canadian Press says her work blends “the influences of Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh with the shapes of Ojibwa pictographs.” (Read the short article here.)
The subject matter of her work is wide-ranging, from domestic scenes and community life, to erotica and legends.
Daphne Odjig accomplished much in her life. She received the Order of Canada in 1986, and the Governor General’s Award for Visual and Media Art in 2007. Her work has been shown, and collected, internationally. Perhaps her most interesting achievment is her role in the founding of the Professional Indian Artists Inc. She opened a business, Odjig Indian Prints of Canada, (which expanded to be The New Warehouse Gallery) in Winnipeg in the 1970s. Yes! She was the first indigenous person to own an art gallery in Canada. She exhibited and sold her own work, as well as the art of Jackson Beardy, Norval Morriseau, Alex Janvier, Eddie Cobbiness, Carl Ray and Joseph Sanchez. They are sometimes referred to as The Native Group of Seven. Her initiatives in promoting aboriginal art had significant impact for native artists. For further reading you can’t go wrong with the Canadian Encyclopedia article here.
Do you like her work? The good news is that Ms Odjig was a prolific artist and many commercial galleries in Canada sell her work at reasonable prices. Have a look at Hambleton Galleries in Kelowna, Bearclaw Gallery in Edmonton, Lattimer Gallery in Vancouver and The Winnipeg Art Gallery.