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 Jackson Beardy  (1944 - 1984)

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Lived/Active: Manitoba / Canada      Known for: painting, printmaking, commercial art, murals, illustration, teaching

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Jackson Beardy (1944 – 1984)

A distinguished Canadian painter, printmaker, commercial artist, muralist, illustrator, teacher, Native activist and a member of the first generation of the Woodland School of Art*, Jackson Beardy (AKA: Quentin Pickering Jackson Beardy) was born on the Garden Hill Reservation, Island Lake, Manitoba (about 300 miles north of Winnipeg) and died in Winnipeg, Manitoba. [1]

His mediums included acrylic, oil, gouache*, tempera*, ink, graphite*, charcoal, stencil, fresco* and serigraph*. The supports included birch bark and beaver skins; as well as canvas, illustration board and paper. His subjects are animals, figures, portraits, symbolism, spirituality, legends and myths. His most well-known style is Woodland School of Art*; however, he has done Realist* works and much of his work could also be described as Surrealism*. The AskART illustration Black Wings is a good example of his Woodland style.

His formal art education includes Winnipeg Technical Vocational High School (1963 – 1964); and the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg (c.1966). His teaching career includes lecturing at Brandon University (Brandon, Manitoba) and at the University of Manitoba, as well as at schools across Winnipeg.

He was a field researcher of Ojibway culture for the Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature (beginning 1971) and a senior arts adviser to the federal Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (1982 – 1983).

He was also a member of the Aboriginal Advisory Panel for the Expo 67 Indians of Canada Pavilion (1967), National Arts Advisory Council, Manitoba Arts Council, Prison Arts Foundation, Canadian Artists' Representation* (CARFAC), and the Professional Native Indian Artists Incorporation (AKA: Indian Group of Seven).

According to the Canadian Heritage Information Network* and individual museum websites, there are Jackson Beardy paintings and prints in the permanent collections of the Art Gallery of Alberta (Edmonton), Canadian Museum of Civilization (Gatineau, Quebec), Mackenzie Art Gallery (Regina, Saskatchewan), McMichael Canadian Art Collection (Kleinburg, Ontario), Royal Ontario Museum (Toronto), Simon Fraser University Gallery (Burnaby, B.C.), Museum of Anthropology (University of British Columbia, Vancouver), University of Lethbridge Art Gallery (Lethbridge, Alberta) and the Winnipeg Art Gallery (Manitoba).

The locations of his best known murals are St. John's College, University of Manitoba (1976); and the Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature [The Great Chain of Being] (1978).

His illustrated books include When the Morning Stars Sang Together (1974), by John S. Morgan; and Ojibway Heritage (1976), by Basil H. Johnston.

Beardy’s awards and honors include the Canadian Centennial Medal and a Canada Council Grant (1982). His paintings have also been gifted by the Province of Manitoba to Queen Elizabeth II (1979), and by the International Association for the History of Religions to H.I.H. Prince Mikasa (AKA:Takahito – Hirohito’s youngest brother) of Japan (1980).
 
Attached below is a biography excerpt and exhibition list courtesy of the Bearclaw Gallery, Edmonton.

Jackson Beardy, an Ojibway artist, was a leading Native figure in the late 1960s and 1970s, advocating both politically and artistically for the rights of the peoples of the First Nations in Canada. As a founding member of the New Woodland School and as a community representative on various cultural and political organizations, Beardy forged a path and created a legacy of activism for those who followed. Beardy's influence on the revitalization of Woodland culture and the policies and methods of Canadian institutions handling and interpreting art treasures of First Nations has been an important contribution to the development and history of the art of the First Nations.

Treaty Numbers 23, 287, 1171 was one of the first exhibitions in Canada to address First Nations art within an aesthetic as opposed to anthropological framework. The exhibition was curated by the late Jacqueline Fry for the Winnipeg Art Gallery in 1972 and included the work of Daphne Odjig [2], Alex Janvier, and Jackson Beardy. Appropriately, these artists would become associated with a move toward the application of new methodological approaches to native art in the 1970s that would continue to be refined and developed throughout the 1980s.

In the early 1970s, Odjig, Janvier, and Beardy actively advocated for the rights of Native artists through their formation of what was popularly called the Group of Seven [3] with artists Norval Morrisseau, Carl Ray, Eddy Cobiness (1933 – 1996) and Joseph Sanchez (1948).

Through their association – professionally known as Native Artists, Inc. [full name: Professional Native Indian Artists Incorporation] – these artists provided a much-needed informal but focused forum for criticism amongst artists. They organized exhibitions, worked toward the development of a scholarship program, developed strategies to inform the public about their work, and worked to control the production and marketing of their art. The Group of Seven hoped to encourage Native control of Native interests; separate their work from the established Indian art marketing program, which emphasized "Indianness"; and dispense with art-world arguments regarding the artistic versus anthropological significance of works of art by Native artists.

For Beardy, the Group of Seven was only the beginning. He would subsequently augment his career as an artist with the role of cultural activist, serving as art advisor and cultural consultant to the Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature, the Department of Native Studies at Brandon University [Manitoba], and the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development in Ottawa. He was also an active member of the National Indian Arts Council, the Manitoba Arts Council, the Prison Arts Foundation, Canadian Artists' Representation [CARFAC]*, Canadian Indian Artist Association, and a council member for the Garden Hill Band of Island Lake, Manitoba.

As a visual artist Beardy was a pivotal figure during his lifetime and has become emblematic of a style, period, and movement. As one of the founding members of the New Woodland School, and as part of the founding generation of modern Native artists in Canada, Beardy was one of the first to wed Ojibway tradition with European notions of fine art. His art is representative of the New Woodland School style: iconic figures, an undifferentiated background, systems of linear determinatives, x-ray perspectives, and vibrant unmixed hues.

With cultural specificity, it reflects his search for "a visual symbolic language that would convey a cohesive world view," as Colleen Cutschall described it in 1994. "Beardy created an art of profound cultural change – steeped both in a traditional heritage and a contemporary reality and relevance. His work is powerful in its historical, cultural and political significances.

Throughout his lifetime, Jackson Beardy's social work traversed cultures, instigated change, marked the combined aesthetic/political intersection that would ensure the activity of a second generation of Native "modernists."

In 1972, Jackson Beardy was awarded the Canadian Centennial Medal, and in 1984 his memorial service was the first ever held in the Blue Room of the Manitoba Legislative Buildings. Here federal, provincial, and civic leaders joined Beardy's family and Native leaders and elders in mourning Beardy and paying tribute to his life and work.

SOLO EXHIBITIONS
1965: University of Winnipeg, Manitoba
1967: United College, Winnipeg, Manitoba
1969: Royal Bank of Canada, Winnipeg, Manitoba
1970: National Arts Centre, Ottawa, Ontario
1976: Pollock Gallery, Toronto, Ontario
1977: Images for a Canadian Heritage, Vancouver, British Columbia
1977: Robertson Galleries, Ottawa, Ontario
1978: Fort Garry Trust, Winnipeg, Manitoba
1979: Gallery One, Toronto, Ontario
1979: Galerie Martal, Montreal, Quebec
1979: Children of the Raven Gallery, Vancouver, British Columbia
1980: The Raven Gallery, Minneapolis, Minnesota
1980: Robertson Galleries, Ottawa, Ontario
1980: Eaton's Fine Art Gallery, Winnipeg, Manitoba
1981: Images Gallery, Vancouver, British Columbia
1982: Rothwell Galleries, Ottawa, Ontario
1995: Jackson Beardy: A Life's Work, Thunder Bay Art Gallery, Ontario

SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS[4]
1967: Indians of Canada Pavilion, Expo '67, Montreal
1970: Manitoba Days, National Arts Centre, Ottawa
1972: Treaty Numbers: No. 23, 287, 1171, Winnipeg Art Gallery
1974: Canadian Indian Art '74, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto
1974: Gallery Anthropas, London
1974: Merritt College, Oakland, California
1975: Wallack Galleries, Ottawa
1976: Contemporary Native Art of Canada: The Woodland Indians, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto (traveled to England and Germany)
1976: Wells Gallery, Ottawa
1977: Native Graphics, Winnipeg Art Gallery
1977: Contemporary Indian Art: The Trail from the Past to the Future, MacKenzie Gallery and Native Studies Programme, Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario
1977: Links to a Tradition, Department of Indian and Northern Affairs for the Canadian Embassy in Brazil
1978: Merton Gallery, Toronto
1979: Indian Art `79, Woodland Indian Cultural Educational Centre, Brantford, Ontario
1980: Manitou Citizens' Bursary Fund for Native Peoples Show, Winnipeg
1980: Graphics Gallery, Ottawa
1982: Five Woodland Indian Artists, Raven Gallery, Minneapolis
1982: Renewal: Masterworks of Contemporary Indian Art from the National Museum of Man, Thunder Bay, Ontario
1982: Contemporary Indian Art at Rideau Hall, Ottawa
1983-85 Contemporary Indian and Inuit Art of Canada, organized by the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs (traveling)

Source: Bearclaw Gallery, Edmonton, Alberta.
 
Footnotes:
[1] Beardy lived in Ottawa, Ontario in the early 1980s (c.1980 – 1984) and had moved back to Winnipeg shortly before his sudden death from complications following a heart attack. Source: The Aboriginal Multi-Media Society.

[2] Please note: All artist associates mentioned in this biography and its footnotes, except those with bracketed life-dates after their names, have their own pages in AskART.

[3] Please note: All references to the Group of Seven in the Bearclaw biography are to the group of aboriginal artists who are considered the first generation of the Woodland School of Art. They were informally referred to as the Indian Group of Seven, a moniker given to them by Winnipeg Free Press reporter, Gary Scherbain. While the name Group of Seven is arithmetically accurate, it is also an obvious reference to the early 20th century group of Toronto painters called the Group of Seven (see AskART glossary), who were iconic pioneers of Canadian Post Impressionism*. The actual name of the Indian group is the Professional Native Indian Artists Incorporation.  Formed in 1973, and funded by the Canadian Department of Indian Affairs, it’s founders and only members were Norval Morrisseau, Daphne Odjig, Jackson Beardy, Alex Janvier, Eddy Cobiness (1933 – 1996), Carl Ray and Joe Sanchez (1948). The original idea was to formalize a group of native artists that would spread the word about native art and assist and inspire up and coming younger native artists. According to Janvier, ‘An important part of the group’s aim was to release young aboriginal artists from the necessity of producing romanticized Indian art. They were challenging Canadian art and destroying people’s conception of native art.’ The first exhibition titled “Treaty Numbers 23, 287, 1171” was at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in 1973. It included only Jackson Beardy, Alex Janvier, and Daphne Odjig. Indian Affairs helped organize three more shows at galleries in Ottawa, Vancouver and Montreal. The last was at the Dominion Galley (Montreal) in 1975. The PNIAI never had more than the original seven members, though Bill Reid did join in some shows, and it eventually ceased to exist as an organization as the individual members concentrated on developing their own careers. Sources: Canada Council for the Arts; and Native Art in Canada.com.

[4] Posthumously, his works were included in “Woodland Art of Canada’s First Nations”, Ethnographic Museum, Budapest (1993); “From Wigwams to Canvas: Generations of Woodland Art”, Mackenzie Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan (2002); “Gatherings: Aboriginal art from the collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery”, Winnipeg Art Gallery (2002); “We do it for our children”, Mackenzie Art Gallery (2005); and “(Re)Visiting the Collection: Selections of Manitoba Art from the University of Winnipeg”, University of Winnipeg (2008). Source: Art Gallery of Ontario (catalogue summaries online).

Sources:
A Dictionary of Canadian Artists (1974), by Colin S. MacDonald (see AskART book references)
The Collector's Dictionary of Canadian Artists at Auction (2001), by Anthony R. Westbridge and Diana L. Bodnar (see AskART book references)
Art and Architecture in Canada (1991), by Loren R. Lerner and Mary F. Williamson (see AskART book references)
Biographical Index of Artists in Canada (2003), by Evelyn de Rostaing McMann (see AskART book references)
Canada Council for the Arts
The Canadian Encyclopedia (online)
Canadian Heritage Information Network* data base
Art Gallery of Ontario (catalogue summaries online)
 
* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see AskART.com. Glossary http://www.askart.com/AskART/lists/Art_Definition.aspx.ARTSask.ca (Mackenzie Art Gallery/Mendel Art Gallery)

Prepared and contributed by M.D. Silverbrooke


** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at registrar@AskART.com.
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