First Nations peoples have been creating visual imagery for millennia but it was not until the 1960s that Indigenous imagery was recognized by the Canadian Art establishment as anything other than cultural artifacts or records. The first Indigenous artist to achieve recognition in Canada was Norval Morrisseau who developed what became known as the Woodland School of Art. Through this style Morrisseau sought to communicate the spiritual essence of the Anishnaabe (Ojibwe) world.
The Woodland style has influenced many Indigenous artists throughout Canada over the past sixty years. While all are unique talents, many artists who have followed Morrisseau have made use of the rudiments of the Woodland style. These include the expressive and symbolic use of line; images of transformation; x-ray decoration; and the manipulation of bright, contrasting colors.
The travelling exhibition Turtle Island features the work of three contemporary Indigenous artists from Central Alberta who, to varying degrees, bear witness to the importance of the Woodland style in their work. Whether through drawing or paint on canvas these artists demonstrate the bonds between all creatures and celebrate life on Turtle Island, the place we all call home.