The acclaimed George Morrison – a beloved Minnesota artist known for challenging old notions of what Native American art should be – will be honored with a series of postage stamps that the US Postal Service will issue next year.
Morrison was born in 1919 in an abandoned village near the Grand Marais, known as the city of Chippewa. His passion for art, and then his teachings, brought him to New York, Paris and Rhode Island.
He earned his living from his job and could have lived a chic lifestyle, aging in Greenwich Village, in tweed jackets and glasses of French red wine, but he was ready to return home to the North Shore in the 1970s. There, Lake Superior inspired Morrison to create hundreds of small paintings closely associated with dusk and dawn, fog and mist and fiery sunsets, said Jackson Rushing, Morrison’s friend and art historian and co-author of The Modern Spirit: The Art of Art. George Morrison “.
Rushing described these paintings, some of which will be included in the five works in the stamp collection, like the mantra: “I’m at home again. I’m home again.
“George’s paintings are associated with a specific place, a place where you came from, a place with which you feel connected or connected,” Rushing said. “(M) Any people who have been to the North Shore and seen him at dusk, dawn or during a storm will look at George’s paintings and admit that he has a sense of those moments in those places. They raise people to a deep philosophical level. “
Rushing nominated Morrison for a series of stamps and ultimately selected the works to be presented. He met Morrison at the Heard Museum in Phoenix in 1991, just nine years before Morrison’s death in 2000, and visited his home, Red Rock, on the Grand Portage Reservation.
“I am really lucky to have met George,” Rushing said. “Some artists become important, famous and successful, and it just hurts to be with them … to be around. George was quiet and serious, but not stuffy. He was very gentle and kind. He could be funny with a kind of dry sense of humor. He was a loved one. … He was a really special person and everyone knew that. “
Morrison, along with painter and sculptor Allan Hauser, were among those who overcame the barriers to what Native American art could be, and in 2004 both were presented at the opening of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington.
According to Rushing, the often unspoken but prevailing ideas that defined indigenous art came from white curators and institutions and were perpetuated by those who supported the idea. He recalled how, in the 1940s, Morrison submitted his work for inclusion in an American Indian art exhibition at the Philbrook Art Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but it was rejected and he was told that his art did not fit the traditional style of his ancestors.
“Of course there were people, especially if they had any idea of abstract art, and realized that they didn’t need to be in ‘Indian style’ to say, ‘This painting reflects the spirit of the indigenous people,” Rushing said.
Morrison is now known as the founding artist of Native American modernism and for giving other Native artists the freedom to create art beyond the symbols, narrative, and styles of their ancestors.
Morrison’s son, Brian Morrison, lives at Red Rock Studios with his partner Roxanne Berglund. He said he thought his father would be delighted to know that his work would be done on postage stamps.
“This is a great statement about his art and his life,” said Briand. “This is a convincing indicator that he was a great artist.”
Since he grew up on the east coast, Briand always thought that his father’s abstract paintings of horizons were of the ocean. It was only when he got to know the North Shore himself that he realized that all these paintings were so clearly inspired by Lake Superior.
“The horizon, water, sky, all these elements are here, and they are simply burned into your soul,” said Briand.
He remembered what it was like growing up with an eccentric father, such as when they moved from the East Coast to Minnesota in 1970, first to St. Paul, where his family bought a Lutheran church, rebuilt it into a house, and painted the façade. the door is purple.
Brian said his father grew up in an Ojibwe-speaking family of 12 children until he was transferred to an American Indian boarding school, where he was “completely and completely” Anglicized. He also fell ill with tuberculosis in a boarding school, leaving him with his thigh bone removed and in a cast for a year.
Because the boarding school effectively robbed his father of his culture, Briand said he was not raised with any Anisinaabe values until the 1970s, when the American Indian Movement began to change attitudes towards indigenous peoples.
Around the same time, George Morrison gave up being called an indigenous artist and became an Indian artist.
“It wasn’t until the 70s that George began to realize, with himself and with his audience, that there might be something in the performance of these paintings that he did representing Indian art,” Rushing said.
George Morrison’s Forever Stamps collection will be released in 2022 and will be available at post offices. The Postal Service will host a stamp issue ceremony in Minnesota. Information about the event will be available later.