Daphne Odjig, Potawatomi, Odawa, 1919-

She is an internationally acclaimed Native artist. She was born on the Wikwemikong Reserve on Manitoulin Island (Lake Huron), Ontario. Her father and her grandfather, Chief Jonas Odjig, were Potawatomi (Keepers of the Fire), descended from the great chief Black Partridge. Her ancestors were part of the Three Fires Confederacy of the Great Lakes with the Ojibwa and Odawa.
Odjig left the reserve for Parry Sound at age 18 and, experiencing racial discrimination for the first time, used the surname "Fisher," the English translation of "Odjig," as a response to the prejudice she felt. She met her first husband, Paul Somerville in Toronto during the Second World War and later moved to British Columbia where she began painting seriously. Her work was influenced by the Northwest Coast art and the developing Anishnabe style and although it is often associated with the New Woodland school she herself disagrees saying her work reflects womanhood and family rather than spiritual quest. In the early 1960s, Odjig began paining scenes from Manitoulin mythology and wrote and illustrated a series of children's books on legends about Nanabush, the trickster figure in Ojibwa culture. After the tragic death of her husband, Odjig married Chester Beavon and moved to Northern Manitoba; her work with the displaced Easterville Cree resulted in a major series of ink drawings about life on the reserve.
In 1972, Odjig's art was featured in a trend-setting group exhibition, Treaty Numbers 23, 287 and 1171, at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, the first time Native artists were featured outside a museum. This led to the foundation of the Professional Native Indian Artists Association. In 1974, Odjig and her husband opened the Warehouse Gallery in Winnipeg, a huge venture that provided significant support for emerging Native artists. Recognition of her extraordinary talent followed. In 1986 Odjig was one of four international artists selected to paint an homage to Pablo Picasso for the Picasso Museum in Antibes, France. Later that year she was appointed to the Order of Canada. In 1989, she was elected a Member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Art. Among her many awards are the National Aboriginal Achievement Award (1998), the Queen Elizabeth II - Commemorative Golden Jubilee Medal (2002), the National Film Board of Canada Expression Award (2003), and the Governor General’s Award for Visual and Media Arts (2007). Odjig is also the recipient of several honourary degrees including Doctor of Education, Nipissing University, North Bay, Ontario (1996); Doctor of Letters, Okanagan University College, Kelowna, British Columbia (2002); Doctor of Letters, Thompson Rivers University, Kamloops, British Columbia (2007); Doctor of Fine Arts, The Ontario College of Art and Design, Toronto (2008); and Doctor of Laws, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario (2008) A tribute to her work was made by Canada Post in its issue of Genesis as a Christmas stamp in 2002, and a major retrospective of her work, The Drawings and Paintings of Daphne Odjig, was presented by the Art Gallery of Sudbury and the National Gallery of Canada in 2007.
Daphne Odjig lives and works in Penticton, British Columbia.


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