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Gallery acquires 11 paintings with national award

The Thunder Bay Art Gallery will add 11 paintings by Fort William First Nation artist Christian Chapman to its collection thanks to an award from the Canada Council for the Arts.

THUNDER BAY – A vibrant series of paintings by Fort William First Nation artist Christian Chapman will soon join the Thunder Bay Art Gallery’s collection, after the organization was selected as this year’s recipient of a Canada Council for the Arts award.

The gallery will purchase 11 mixed-media works by Chapman using funds received through the council’s York Wilson Endowment Award.

The prize is awarded annually, providing up to $30,000 to a non-profit museum or gallery to purchase original works by living, contemporary Canadian artists.

The gallery received the award once before in 2018, purchasing Cell by Frank Shebagaget.

With this year’s award, the gallery will secure paintings from Chapman’s series Ziibaaska'iganagoodayan – The Jingle Dress.

In a release, the gallery described the works as “bright and bold” images of Anishinaabe women wearing their jingle dresses.

“These screenprinted and acrylic on canvas pieces revel in Warholian colour and composition,” the gallery stated. “Each dancer has her hands on her hips, staring into the camera with confidence and purpose. The women in the portraits are Chapman’s friends, family, and fellow artists.”

In a statement, Chapman thanked the council and the gallery, saying the move will help preserve the series as a cohesive artistic statement available to residents in the region.

“I’d like to thank the kweug who trusted me to create this body of work,” he said “These paintings have become a family. Keeping them together is a blessing.”

Chapman, a painter of Anishinaabe heritage from Fort William First Nation, creates two-dimensional mixed-media artwork that fuses elements of painting, drawing and printmaking.

“Chapman’s portraits are full of life, colour, and undeniable power,” said gallery curator Penelope Smart. “Bringing a series of this magnitude into our collection is important and exciting. We felt strongly about keeping Christian’s works in Thunder Bay, and we’re grateful and proud to do so.”

The gallery said it will display the paintings in 2023 at a date to be announced.


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