Kicking off your arts section with a nearly full page on the 7: Professional Native Indian Artists Inc.’ group art show provided an excellent historical and polemic view of the “First Nations Group of Seven” [“Some Overdue Love” by Greg Beatty, Oct. 31-Nov. 13].

Prompted both by the article and my already frequent visits to the Mackenzie, I decided to attend for the cultural significance but I stayed for the art. My one self-assignment was to see if there was a way to view and appreciate the seven artists in order to register individual differences and personalize their works in my own mind.

Michelle Lavallee and her staff have outdone themselves in the Mackenzie space. Any show including seven artists whose art spans decades could easily have seemed disconnected or confusing, considering artwork as physically colourful as these. Lavallee structures the show with a deft guiding hand, using effective signage, perfect lighting and very stylish use of wall colours behind the exhibits. All these techniques help cluster the artists’ works into meaningful categories, making them more accessible.

When you attend, you’ll discover from Norval Morrisseau that the Dept. of Indian Affairs once offered to give him painting lessons which he, lucky for us, declined. He said factually that “There is no one who can teach me this kind of art”.

You’ll discover Daphne Odjig’s painted great-great-grandfather spirits, whose four-fingered hands emerge from half-secluded portals ambiguously seeming to open both forward into the future, yet back into numberless previous generations.

Joseph Sanchez references the three times he was struck by lightning. Both his biographical notes and his drawings show us the powerful effects those events had on his artistic vision.

One fascinating inclusion of the 7 show is Daphne Odjig’s painting of an open-air market in Jerusalem, one of the 1977 series sponsored by El Al air lines. I’d like to see the other three in the series!

After two visits to the 7, the Alex Janvier paintings emerged as my favourites. His tumbling and looping pigmented figures generate tension against white space on the canvasses, producing views that seem microscopic and yet gigantic at the same time. The net effect seems to balance a confident human precision against an almost ethereal weightlessness.

Prairie Dog, I believe, is the first major Regina newspaper to pick up on the importance of this show.

If you don’t have such an official category, can I vote Mackenzie’s 7-Show” as the best show of 2013 in a local gallery?

Robert Trofimenkoff, Regina


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