While visiting family in the fabled hamlet of Courtenay, British Columbia, I stumbled in to the Comox Valley Art Gallery and happened upon an incredibly arresting and uncompromising piece of political art. The framed work was entitled “North American Indian Prison” by George Littlechild. I was instantly taken by the vivid colours of the piece. Mesmerized by the ghostly archival photos enmeshed in a mixed media landscape of expert brush strokes of reds and yellows, and by its political stance, I immediately rushed to the front desk to inquire of this incredible artist whose work was nestled between the big box stores and car lots that now dominate the landscape of my once quieter, walkable town.
As it turns out, George Littlechild lays his head in the Comox Valley on the First Nations Reserve between Courtenay and K’ómoks. And so, eager as I was, I contacted him with a local prefix. The result is a short audio interview about his life, his work and his politics. Born in Alberta and of Plains Cree descent, Littlechild has established himself as one of Canada’s prestigious contemporary artists combining traditional aboriginal with contemporary mixed media practices. His art interrogates history, memory and identity and forces those of us above the 49th parallel in North America to consider not only the collective pain of First Nations peoples that was hollowly addressed yesterday by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, but to consider the lines that intersect between indigenous culture and that of the colonizer. In Littlechild’s case, it is the familial and familiar–from both perspectives of his First Nations and European roots that are explored in his most recent work.
A visual artist, children’s book creator, educator, activist and cultural hero for his bold but vulnerable resurrections of political and social histories, Littlechild is an artist whose work speaks loudly and truthfully. You can discover his work and read more about him at his personal site, GeorgeLittlechild.com.
Listen to the audio interview here.