By Paul Gessell, Canwest News ServiceOctober 23, 2009
Condensed by Native Village
Back in the 1940s, Daphne
Odjig tried to "pass" as
white to improve her job
prospects. She adopted the
surname Fisher, told people
she was of Spanish origin,
and even flirted with the
idea of becoming a flamenco
These days, at age 90, Odjig embraces her aboriginal heritage. She's proud to call herself "Indian," even if some consider the term politically incorrect.
now, the National
Gallery of Canada will honour Odjig with the first-ever
solo exhibition by a First
Nations female artist.
"She's a great icon," said Lee-Ann Martin, curator at the Canadian Museum of Civilization. "I think that National Gallery show is long overdue. Daphne Odjig has been doing her art since the 1940s, before (fellow First Nations artists) Alex Janvier and Norval Morrisseau. But let's not forget the power of her art and the greatness of her as an artist. It's not only that symbolism of her being the first First Nations woman. Why is she there? It's about her art and the power of that."
Odjig's show was curated by Bonnie Devine for the National Gallery and the Art Gallery of Sudbury. The exhibition opened in Sudbury two years ago, and has been travelling through North America. Included are about 60 paintings and prints from 50 years of creativity.
Odjig is of mixed heritage. Her father was a Potawatomi; her mother was an English war bride. Daphne's artwork fuses both cultures using aboriginal themes and motifs with European styles.
Daphne first experience racism when she moved away from the reserve. It was then she adopted the surname Fisher to better fit into mainstream culture.
A major turning point for Odjig
-- and return to her
aboriginal roots -- came in 1964, when she
helped organize an
aboriginal art exhibition
on the Wiki
reserve. In 1973, she
helped found Professional
Indian Artists Inc..
That group became known as
the Indian Group of Seven,
and they raised the
profile of modern aboriginal art in Canada and
Many honours have been bestowed upon Odjig in her lifetime, including the Order of Canada and the Governor General's Visual Arts Award.