Artwork by Daphne Odjig,  Family Ties

Daphne Odjig
Family Ties

acrylic on canvas
signed and dated 1981 lower left; titled on the stretcher
36 x 34 ins ( 91.4 x 86.4 cms )

Auction Estimate: $40,000.00$30,000.00 - $40,000.00

Price Realized $37,760.00
Sale date: May 29th 2018

The Collection of TransCanada PipeLines Limited, Calgary
As a founding member of the “Indian Group of Seven”, Odjig's distinctive Woodland style is a direct response to the trend of exclusion or misrepresentation of Native and Indigenous culture in the dialogue of Canadian art. Opting for a style emphasizing strong line, bold colour, and lyrical movement, Odjig thrusts her Odawa-Potawatomi culture and histories into the visual culture of Canadian art.

The cool and neutral colour palette evokes a sense of calm in the composition. The use of line and form help reinforce the close connection of the family as arms wrap around each other in an embrace. Quintessential to the artist’s body of work is the cubist-like play with dimension and spacial awareness as the faces and bodies of the figures are broken up into divided and rotated planes. The three-dimensional qualities of the eyes, noses and cheeks have been flattened and rotated in the image plane to be viewed simultaneously adding a poetic and subtle distortion to the intimate moment.

The stages of life are represented in the composition with the beginning of new life in the arms of the elder with mid-life family members encircled in the embrace. Formally, the triangular shape of the figures also emphasizes a metaphor for strength and togetherness of the family as a united front in the development of the greater lineage. The themes of family love and connection are used as a vehicle for the artist to continue a dialogue between Native and non-Native cultures and narratives. The universal theme is strategic in continuing and furthering a greater mutual understanding and respect within a complex multicultural definition of Canadian identity and artistic practices.

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Daphne Odjig
(1919 - 2016) R.C.A., O.C., G.G.A.

Born and raised in the village of Wikwemikong, on Manitoulin Island, Daphne Odjig has strong traditional roots in her Native culture (she is Potawatomi, Odawa, and English) and is proud of the artistic tradition of her ancestors. Her grandfather, Jonas Odjig, carved tombstones for the nearby church and later sketched and painted church landscapes. Her father painted war scenes and portraits of soldiers from the Great War and was a talented musician.

Bob Boyer notes that "Daphne often claims that she is not part of the New Woodland school" in that her works incorporated the importance of womanhood and sense of family, while others in the New Woodland group "concerned themselves with a spiritual quest." Her work also differed in that she was influenced by Picasso's cubism but within an Aboriginal context. She was attracted to the cubist style because of its "disregard for perspectival space, its skewing of the elements and relationships of reality, and its central compositional structure."

In 1972, Odjig's art took her to Winnipeg and a pivotal exhibition, "Treaty Numbers 23, 287 and 1171," at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. The exhibition featured her work along with the work of Jackson Beardy and Alex Janvier. This was the first time Native artists were featured in a Canadian public art gallery rather than a museum. Daphne was the only Native woman artist facing this struggle in the early years, a situation made all the more difficult because she was a self-taught artist and, as a result, not respected at that time.

In 1973, she co-founded the Professional Native Indian Artists Association (colloquially called the "Indian Group of Seven"). This group included Daphne, Jackson Beardy, Carl Ray, Joseph Sanchez, Eddy Cobiness, Norval Morrisseau and Alex Janvier. Daphne was the first and only woman to be a part of this group. Later, in 1974, Daphne and Chester opened the Warehouse Gallery in Winnipeg, a huge venture that provided support for emerging Native artists. Odjig was honoured with the order of Canada in 1986 and was elected a member of the Royal Canadian Academy in 1989. She received the Governer General’s Award for Visual Arts from Governor General Michaell Jean in 2007. Odjig lived in Anglemont, British Columbia for a number of years and in Kelowna until her passing in 2016.