Indian Group of Seven artists will help launch permanent exhibition

Tuesday, April 10th, 2018 2:16pm


Joseph Sanchez at the 2016 Art Gallery of Alberta, in Edmonton 7: Professional Native Indian Artists Inc. exhibition by his work entitled, Businessmen’s Lunch.  “It is about the fact that women have been disrespected for so long in this society,” said Sanchez. “I mostly paint from a feminist point of view. We need to protect women.”

By Shari Narine
Windspeaker Contributor

Joseph Sanchez and Alex Janvier will be on hand when Portage College’s Lac La Biche campus officially opens the Professional Native Indian Artists Inc. permanent exhibition this Friday.

“I’m always excited to show with the group,” said Sanchez, one of the two surviving members of the artists that were dubbed the Indian Group of Seven.

Work by Sanchez, the youngest artist in the group, and Janvier, along with Daphne Odjig, Jackson Beardy, Eddy Cobiness, Norval Morrisseau, and Carl Ray will be displayed in the Museum of Aboriginal Peoples’ Art & Artifacts, one large wing of Portage College’s Lac La Biche campus.

The work, in part from Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada’s Indigenous Arts Centre, and the private collection of the Lundrigan Family will be on permanent loan.

The exhibit will also include work by other Indigenous artists that the Indian Group of Seven influenced, said Ruby Sweetman, Arts and Culture Program Coordinator and Collections Manager.

“What better way to honour the Group of Seven that just paved the way for Indigenous artists?” she said.

The wing is also home to the work of other artisans, including moose hair tufting and porcupine quill work.  Friday’s ceremonies will also mark the 40th anniversary for the museum.

It’s important that such recognition be given to the artists, considering that Portage College provides Native arts and culture programming that instructs aspiring Indigenous artists in traditional and contemporary styles and techniques, said Sweetman.

“To be able to have students walk down the hallways and be inspired by this Group of Seven, I don’t think there’s anywhere else you can find this, especially in northern Alberta in the Lakeland region,” she said.

In 2016, Sweetman said they took their students to Edmonton to the Art Gallery of Alberta when it hosted the 7: Professional Native Indian Artists Inc. travelling exhibition.

“It was really influential on our students to see what they’re capable of as Indigenous people,” she said.

Other field trips have included the Janvier Gallery in Cold Lake.

Sweetman admits she’s thrilled about having both Janvier and Sanchez at the opening.

“Just to have them there. What are the chances of meeting the last two surviving members?” she said.  “To be able to meet them and have them in your presence is going to be pretty exciting.”

Sanchez said the permanent exhibition shows “great insight” on behalf of the school.

“These were very important artists. Myself, I was just a young guy in the group. But Daphne, Alex, and Norval have changed Canadian art… have changed what people’s perception of what Native art is and might be,” he said.

Sanchez points to a book recently published by the National Gallery of Canada written by director Marc Meyer, who chose 150 pieces of works “that changed Canadian art.” Odjig, Janvier and Morrisseau were each allocated two pages.

For non-Indigenous people taking in the work of the Indian Group of Seven, Sanchez wants them to see “the creative power of our people…that we have a lot to offer.”

For Indigenous artists, he wants them to understand that this accomplishment can be theirs.

“Believing in yourself aspect of it, that’s the most important. If you believe that you have the talent and you’re that creative, no matter what the resistance is or will be, you will persevere because you believe in your own work,” said Sanchez.

Sanchez will also be showing his most recent work from 2013.

Sanchez will be in Lac La Biche on Wednesday, where he will deliver a speech at the Power Up North conference on being an artist in today’s world and on Thursday he will offer two public workshops.

Related Stories:

Daphne Odjig: Woodland style meets Picasso

Jackson Beardy: Inspired storyteller, respected artist

Noval Morrisseau: The one and only

Eddy Cobiness: Obituary

7: Professional Native Indian Artists Inc. makes final tour stop in Edmonton