''He was a role model, visionary and seminal force throughout Native America and Canada. We were especially fortunate to have the great man himself present at the opening of his major retrospective, 'Norval Morrisseau: Shaman Artist,' at our New York City museum. Through his groundbreaking and vibrant works, he positioned his rich indigenous heritage squarely within modern art; a revolutionary and uplifting achievement that influences contemporary culture through today.''
- Kevin Gover, director of the
Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian
Norval Morrisseau, also known by his Ojibwa name, Copper Thunderbird, died Dec. 4 in Toronto from complications of Parkinson's disease. He was 75. Morrisseau was one of Canada's most celebrated painters and an important influence in the development of North American indigenous art. He originated the pictographic style, which became known as ''Woodland Indian art'' or ''legend painting.'' The popularity of Morrisseau's work inspired younger Native artists in the late 1960s, and many artists later adopted his style exclusively.
A retrospective of Morrisseau's work is now on view through Jan. 20 at the George Gustav Heye Center, part of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, in New York City. John Haworth, director of the Heye Center, said: ''This is a great loss for both the Native and artistic communities of the world. We are honored to have an exhibition of his powerful work on view at this sad time. As I walked through the galleries, I contemplated how his works have uplifted and inspired countless viewers and also have encouraged hundreds of Native artists to realize their own dreams.''