By W. Jackson Rushing III and Kristin Makholm
Foreward by Kay WalkingStick
The work of Chippewa artist George Morrison (1919-2000) has enjoyed widespread critical acclaim. His paintings, drawings, prints, and sculptures have been displayed in numerous public and private exhibition, and he is one of Minnesota’s most cherished artists. Yet because Morrison’s artwork typically does not include overt references to his Indian heritage, it has stirred debate about what it means to be a Native American artist. This stunning catalogue, containing 130 color and black-and-white images, showcases Morrison’s work across a spectrum of genres and media, while also exploring the artist’s identity as a modernist within the broader context of twentieth-century American and Native American art.
Born and raised near the Grand Portage Indian Reservation in Minnesota, Morrison graduated from the Minnesota School of Art and the Art Students League in New York City. He spent the early years of his career mainly on the East Coast, becoming one of the first Native American artists to exhibit his work extensively in New York. Best known for his landscape paintings and wood collages, he employed a variety of media—paint, wood, ink and metal, paper, and canvas—and created a unique style that combined elements of cubism, surrealism, and abstract expressionism. Morrison returned to Minnesota in the 1970’s, reconnecting with Chippewa culture and traditions, yet still adhering to his artistic identity as a modernist.
In her forward to Modern Spirit, Cherokee artist Kay WalkingStick describes her personal association with Morrison and admiration for his authentic artistic vision. Kristin Makholm, in her introduction to the volume, explores Morrison’s ties to Minnesota art and culture. Then, drawing extensively on primary research and Morrison’s own writings, W. Jackson Rushing III offers an in-depth analysis of Morrison’s artistic evolution against the backdrop of evolving definitions of “Indianness.” At the end of the volume is a detailed chronology by Netha Anita Cloeter that traces Morrison’s life and career.
By expanding our understanding of Morrison’s singular vision, Modern Spirit invites readers to appreciate more deeply the beauty and complexity of his art.
W. Jackson Rushing III is Eugene B. Adkins Presidential Professor of Art History and Mary Lou Milner Carver Chair in Native American art at the University of Oklahoma School of Art and History.
Kristin Makholm is Executive Director of the Minnesota Museum of American Art.
Kay WalkingStick, an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation, is a world-renowned artist. Retired as Professor of Art at Cornell University, she now resides in Jackson Heights, New York.
Netha Anita Cloether holds an M.A. in art history from the University of Oklahoma.
University of Oklahoma Press, 2013