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UHN Virtual Library: Indigenous Resources @ UHN

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Indigenous Art in the Toronto Western Education Centre

Throughout the Education Centre, you will find artwork by two artists: Jay Bell Redbird and Steven Snake. We thank Steven and Jay's family for giving us permission to install their art within this space. We also thank members of UHN's Indigenous Health Program for their support in ensuring that this art is installed according to Indigenous Protocols. 


 

About the artists

Jay Bell Redbird

Jay Bell Redbird is an Ojibwe artist. He was born in Ottawa in 1966. Jay is a member of Wikwemikong, Unceded Indian Reserve. He was a self-taught artist.

Growing up, Redbird was influenced by world-renowned artists like Jackson Bready, Norval Morriseau, his uncle Leland Bell and his father, painter, poet and writer Duke Redbird. Morrisseau taught Jay about colours and their meaning in the Ojibwe culture, history and language. His uncle Leland and father Duke helped Jay to find his voice as an artist, teaching him the techniques, stories and traditions of Ojibwe culture. Following these formative years, he continued to paint and educate himself further, finding his own style and meaning in his work. Redbird’s colourful and vibrant works tell stories and depict animal spirits, legends and dreams.

Redbird said: “I paint from my heart and soul, viewing Aboriginal people through their lifeways as they once lived and as they strive to continue to live as loving, caring and peaceful people. The teachings and stories I have learned flow onto the canvas expressing ideas through my detailed, woodland style of art. A style that I connected with as part of my history passed down from generation to generation. I paint legends and dreams, bringing to life the animal spirit and the spirit of all creation. My lines do not tell the story of prejudice, they follow the Red Road, Mino Bimaadiziwin as I do following the teaching of the Three Fires Midewiwin Society”.

Redbird passed away in June 2019. His work is part of many private and public collections in Canada and worldwide.
 

Steven Snake

Stephen Snake is an Ojibwe artist. He was born in 1966 on the Rama Reserve near Orillia, Ontario. A self-taught artist, his artistic gift was recognized and encouraged at a young age by his mother, Carol Shilling, an artist in her own right, and her cousin Arthur Shilling, a painter well known for his portraits and expressionist style depicting life on the Rama Reserve. Shilling was the one who first exposed Steve to the prolific works of Norval Morrisseau.

Snake’s family moved to Midland, Ontario, where he continued to draw. Life in Midland was very different from life on the Reserve - instead of pictures depicting everyday life and legends passed down; it was grain elevators and other subjects of everyday rural life that captured his attention.

His first show was in 1989 at the Woodland Cultural Centre in Brantford, Ontario. Stephen has had many exhibitions since then, solo and group shows. His work is in many private and public collections throughout the world. In the spring of 1991, Steve met Norval Morrisseau, who became a great influence in his work.

Stephen has a studio in Rama and one on Bear Island, Lake Temagami where he paints landscapes of the north with his own distinctive, impressionistic style that resonates with the spirituality of the land. Portraits of Indigenous chiefs, warriors and artists have become Snake’s signature. Notable subjects include Shilling, Richard Bedwash, Del Ashkewe, Hugh McKenzie and Floyd Kuptana.