Presenting Toronto City Airport's Indigenous & First Nations Art Exhibit

February 15, 2022

Nieuport is committed to the process of furthering reconciliation with First Nations and Urban Indigenous peoples. As part of decolonization efforts, it is important to understand and honour the long histories and traditions of the First Peoples of Canada, and we seek to understand our place within that history.

We acknowledge that Billy Bishop Airport lies on the treaty lands and territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation and pay tribute to their legacy, as well as that of all Indigenous peoples within Canada. We thank them for having cared for these lands and waters since time out of mind. We are committed to strengthening ties with all of the communities we serve, as we work together to build the future through strong investments in Toronto’s/Tkaronto’s economy.

In honour of the Indigenous Elders, leaders, artists and community members that have lived upon these lands, Nieuport has worked with the Bay of Spirits Contemporary First Nations Art Gallery to plan, curate and install a gallery of Indigenous artwork in the Toronto City Airport Passenger Terminal departures level corridor. It features works from artists both local to the Greater Toronto Area and across Ontario, including Ojibway, Cree and OjiCree peoples.

For more information on the artworks displayed, including descriptions of the artists, please continue reading below.

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Artist: Brent Hardisty

Alternative Names: Niiwin Binesi

Date of Birth: 1989

Place of Birth: Elliot Lake, Ontario

Community / Heritage: Sagamok First Nation, Anishnaabeek/Ojibway

Artist Description: Brent Hardisty is a woodland style painter who works in acrylics on canvas. His spiritual name is Niiwin Binesi translated roughly from Anishnaabemowin means Four Birds.

He lived in the city of Toronto in his earlier years and was highly influenced by the graffiti sub-culture. He eventually made a name for himself within that scene and moved onto painting murals for organizations and businesses.

This current style and medium was influenced by his bringing up in a first nation community in Northern Ontario. These pictures depict deep spiritual significance yet they always beckon the viewer to look inside themselves. For there is much to be said of the individual and their own intepretations. Much like our dreams or the colors and symbols placed through out the work.

Flowers Growing from the Fire Stoked by Thunderbeings, Acrylic on 140lb Paper, 20” x 48” Triptych

Boy Surrounded by the Great Mystery, Acrylic on Paper, 22” x 30”

Artist: Mark Seabrook

Date of Birth: 1985

Place of Birth: Espanola, Ontario

Community / Heritage: Sagamok First Nation, Ojibwe

Artist Description: Mark Seabrook, a gifted Ojibwe artist, poet, writer, performer, and playwright is a recent addition to the Ottawa area artistic and spiritual community.

Early in life, Mark was adopted by a non-native couple and grew up surrounded by the natural beauty of Manitoulin Island. He returns there often to visit his family and to renew his connection with the land of his youth. His mother, a teacher and published author encouraged his creative spirit, challenging him to explore his gifts. His father, an entrepreneur who established a tractor museum to house his favourite machines, set high standards for all his children.

Like many artists, Mark is an intriguing individual, sociable and solitary by turns. Both aspects are fuelled by a life that bridges the rural and the urban, - the primitive and the urbane.

To support his art, Mark works weekdays as a public school teacher in a remote northern reserve that lacks many modern amenities including power lines, cable television, and reliable Internet access. He originally chose teaching to share his love of art with children and now teaches all subjects with the same passion. When he isn't teaching, painting, or writing, he wanders through the countryside of northern Quebec and reconnects with the sense and spirit of the land. When he isn't on the reserve, he returns to his partner, technology, noise, and city life in downtown Ottawa.

He paints wherever he is, filling his canvases with bright blocks of acrylic colours layered later with more subtle care. His style is strongly reminiscent of another aboriginal artist, Norval Morriseau, - one of his sources of inspiration.

He paints quickly, driven to record, again and again, bold images and symbols that speak eloquently of his Ojibwe heritage. Once his vision is recorded, he works with it, refining and enhancing it until he is satisfied and can move on to the next canvas.

Mark has a gift for depicting aspects of aboriginal culture and spirituality that extend beyond common stereotypes. His paintings usually include people and each figure is strewn with and surrounded by symbols that define who they are inside, as well as how they appear to the world. Both are important to Mark.

Drawn to record the contribution of aboriginal people to the North American military, Mark has produced several paintings that pay tribute to their efforts as warriors for their countries.

Although Mark's early works often depicted solitary men (usually Mark himself or one of his brothers), his latest works are breathtakingly beautiful images of couples, of mothers and children, and of families. Magically, they pre-date but appear to predict his partner's pregnancy!

Born to both Bird Clan and Fish Clan, birds and fish feature prominently in many of his paintings. The birds, often ravens, sit silent and bear witness or carry messages to the figures that live within his works. The name of Mark's Web site, www.twinravens.com, reflects the importance of the raven to communication in his life.

Bear Clan Calling, Acrylic on Canvas, 24” x 36”

Power Bird, Carry On, Acrylic on Canvas, 24” x 36”

Artist: Kevin Pee-ace

Date of Birth: 1972

Place of Birth: Kelvington, Saskatchewan

Community / Heritage: Yellow Quill First Nations (Saulteaux) and the Peter Chapman First Nations (Cree)

Artist Description: Artist Kevin L. Pee-ace was born in Kelvington, Saskatchewan and is a member of the Yellowquill First Nation and Peter Chapman First nation. Kevin's exposure to art happened at an early age.  He recalled seeing the drawings and paintings created by his uncle, Jerry Whitehead, who would later become instrumental in helping to launch his career.  Upon graduating from high school in 1991, Kevin went on to complete a Fine Arts Studio diploma program from UCFV – Abbottsford, British Columbia.  During the mid-nineties, he explored various programs in Art History, Archaeology, Anthropology and Native Studies at Capilano College in North Vancouver.

Returning to Saskatchewan in 1995 Kevin enrolled at the UofS to continue his studies but quickly realized that the art was becoming more dominant thus committing to it full-time. Art and education have been constants throughout his career, this led to a collaborative approach in creating class murals with many schools throughout Saskatchewan. He currently resides in Saskatoon, Sk painting full-time. He is married and proud father to three children. He has three grandchildren; one grandson, Daniel, and two granddaughters, Raven and Aaliyah.

Celebration, Acrylic on Paper, 62” x 37”

Artist: Roy Thomas

Alternative Names: Gahgahgeh

Date of Birth: 1949

Place of Birth: Longlac Reserve at Pacquashun (Moving Waters) near Caramat, Ontario, Canada

Date of Death: November 13, 2004

Community / Heritage: Anishnaabe

Artist Description: Born in 1949, Roy Thomas was an Ojibwa artist who devoted himself to learning the history and teachings of his people. Thomas' paintings have a quality that commands attention without overwhelming the viewer. His oeuvre reveals an illuminating simplicity - a conversation with Roy was comparable to the stroke of his paintbrush. Roy's work transcends the Ojibwa Woodland Style of his predecessors. His paintings incorporate elements of Ojibwa traditions, legends and realistic depictions of Native life. Roy often worked with artistically gifted people of various backgrounds and his paintings reflect the ideas he drew from these experiences. Roy Thomas's life and work were recently highlighted in Vision Circle: The Art of Roy Thomas: A Retrospective Exhibition by the Thunder Bay Art Gallery.

Interdepedence, Acrylic on Paper, 23” x 30.5”

Artist: Jay Bell Redbird

Date of Birth: August 31, 1966

Place of Birth: Ottawa, Ontario

Date of Death: June 9, 2019

Community / Heritage: Ojibwe

Artist Description: Jay Bell Redbird was an Ojibwe artist born in Ottawa, Canada on August 31, 1966.

Growing up, Redbird was taught and influenced by many world-renowned artists, including his uncle Leland Bell, his father Duke Redbird, Norval Morrisseau, Jackson Beardy and Cecil Youngfox.

Morrisseau taught Jay about colours and their meaning in the Ojibwe culture, history and language. His uncle Leland and father Duke helped Jay to find his voice as an artist, teaching him the techniques, stories and traditions of Ojibwe culture.

Following these formative years, he continued to paint and educate himself further, finding his own style and meaning to his work. Redbird’s colourful and vibrant works tell stories, depict animal spirits, legends and dreams.

Redbird said: “I paint from my heart and soul, viewing Aboriginal people through their life ways as they once lived and as they strive to continue to live as loving, caring and peaceful people. The teachings and stories I have learned flow onto the canvas expressing ideas through my detailed, Woodland style of art. A style that I connected with as part of my history passed down from generation to generation. I paint legends and dreams, bringing to life the animal spirit and the spirit of all creation. My lines do not tell the story of prejudice, they follow the Red Road, Mino Bimaadiziwin as I do following the teaching of the Three Fires Midewiwin Society”.

In 2012, Redbird met Rolf Bouman and became a mentor for many Indigenous artists of the Friends United initiative.

Redbird’s work became part of many private and public collections in Canada and worldwide. Many Hollywood actors, including Russell Crowe, Danny DeVito and Meg Ryan, who Jay met while working in the film industry in Toronto, have purchased and become collectors of his work.

Healing Within, Limited Edition Print, 19” x 24”

Mind Body Spirit, Limited Edition Print, 19” x 24”

Sun Dancer, Limited Edition Print, 24” x 19”

Artist: Isaac Bignell

Date of Birth: 1958

Place of Birth: Pas Reserve, 400 miles north of Winnipeg in Manitoba

Date of Death: 1995

Community / Heritage: Cree from Pas Reserve, Manitoba

Artist Description: The Cree painter, Isaac Bignell, grew up at the junction of the Saskatchewan and Pasquia Rivers, four hundred miles north of Winnipeg Manitoba. His community had been a meeting place for early aboriginal peoples for thousands of years.

Isaac said, " I was brought up to live off the land...to hunt, trap and live in harmony with the earth. That life taught me to respect animals and the spirit and power of nature. My art is strongly influenced by the traditional ways of my people."

Primarily a self-taught painter Isaac worked through various techniques until he developed a distinct fluid style that speaks of the spiritual foundation behind the imagery.

He also loved to dance and was associated with numerous native drum and dance groups. He was quoted as saying, "I hoop-dance and sing Pow Wows to maintain my cultural heritage. Through art and dancing, I attempt to influence Native people to continue their cultural ways; the gift that was given to us by the Great Spirit."

Isaac Bignell passed away at the age of 35 years. He was the devoted father of three.

Eagle Reborn, Limited Edition Print, 19” x 28”

Artist: John Laford

Date of Birth: 1955

Place of Birth: Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Canada

Community / Heritage: Ojibwe/Anishinaabe

Artist Description: John Laford is an Anishinaabe Canadian artist born in 1955 at the reserve in the West Bay of Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Canada. He studied at Algonquin College in Pembroke, Ontario and at the Institute of Indian Art in New Mexico. Laford also worked with Ojibwe artist Carl Beam.

Laford uses mixed media including paper, birch bark, pine, cedar, and pipestone. He received a Canada Council award, which enabled him to travel and gain exposure in Canada, the United States, and Spain. Laford lives and works on the shores of Lake Superior. His paintings can be found in museums across Canada, the U.S. and Australia, as well as in numerous private collections across the globe.

Woman Journey, Limited Edition Print, 15” x 11”

Two Traditions, Limited Edition Print, 15” x 11”

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