Saturday, July 5, 2014

Mother Earth by Norval Morrisseau, an appreciation by Gordon Miller

Mother Earth, Norval Morrisseau
Norval Morrisseau, also known as Copper Thunderbird, is a mystic, a dreamer, a prophet – a man of vision and deep spirituality. He has created a body of work that exemplifies a way of life lived by the woodlands’ people for thousands of years.
     He is the founder of the Woodlands School of Art; he’s a survivor of the residential schools; and while fighting personal demons, became in many people’s eyes, one of Canada’s greatest visual artists.
When Mother Earth was a young woman
Norval Morrissaua
(Click on image to enlarge)
     The painting, Mother Earth, with the duality represented by the blue and yellow background shows the connection between the physical and metaphysical worlds. It is a journey of the mind, on the wings of the thunderbird, to a world of wonder and magic, showing our place in the universe and the connection with all things created by the Great Mystery.
     A giant flood was sent by the Great Manitou in retribution for the waste and dissipation that occurred on earth. The painting represents Nanabush, son of Sky Woman, fathered by the west wind, who took refuge along with the animals on a giant log. Muskrat dove and retrieved a small handful of earth that was placed on the back of the turtle, sacrificing his life in an act that resulted in the growth of this new land.
     Mother Earth is also reminiscent of the vision expressed by the Oglala Lakota Medicine man, Black Elk:
I was standing on the highest mountain of them all. While I stood there, I saw more than I can tell, and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner, the shapes as they must live together as one being. I saw the sacred hoop of my people was one of many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight, and as starlight, and in the centre grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all children of one mother and one father. And I saw that it was holy.
The vivid and vibrant colours, with the x-ray style and skeleton images on the internal parts of the foliage and animals, seem to vibrate and move, revealing the soul that everything possesses.
     I think this deep awareness and wonder, which Morrisseau depicted through his art, goes beyond the ordinary, and can only be explained by an outside force that seems to inherit his work. His message is timeless and will continue to speak to humanity for generations to come.

Gordon Miller is a visual artist and writer living in Oakville, Ontario. He has published a book of his artwork and poetry titled Kokum’s Gift and numerous short stories and presently working on a novel. Some of his work can be seen on He is enjoying the writing classes with Brian and his wonderful classmates.

See Brian Henry's schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Barrie, Brampton, Bolton, Burlington, Caledon, Cambridge, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Kingston, London, Midland, Mississauga, Newmarket, Niagara on the Lake, Orillia, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Stouffville, Sudbury, Toronto, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

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