|Virgin Mary with Christ & John|
I have always been struck by the Native American tradition of renaming and in my search for saints with birds found this amazing artist, whom I present here. His struggles and sufferings in life certainly influenced his art as he strove to live out his name, just as we in the monastery strive to live out the new name given to us as novices.
NORVAL MORRISSEAU (b.1932) also known as COPPER THUNDERBIRD, was an Aboriginal Canadian artist. Known as the "Picasso of the North", Morrisseau created works depicting the legends of his people, the cultural and political tensions between native Canadian and European traditions, his existential struggles, and his deep spirituality and mysticism.
|The Virgin Mary|
At the age of six, he was sent to a Catholic residential school, where students were educated in the European tradition, native culture was repressed, and the use of native language was forbidden. After two years he returned home and started attending a local community school.
|St. Rose Herself-my Spiritual Wife|
In his late teens he became very sick. Fearing for his life, his mother called a medicine-woman who performed a renaming ceremony: She gave him the new name Copper Thunderbird. According to Anishnaabe tradition, giving a powerful name to a dying person can give them new energy and save their lives. Morrisseau recovered after the ceremony and from then on always signed his works with his new name.
|St. Joseph with Christ & John|
As Morrisseau's health began to decline as a result of Parkinson's disease and a stroke in 1994, he was cared for by his adopted family Gabe and Michelle Vadas.
In the final months of his life, he used a wheelchair and lived in a residence in Nanaimo, British Columbia (as the eagle flies not far from our island). He was unable to paint due to his poor health and died of complications arising from Parkinson's disease. He was buried in Northern Ontario next to the grave of his former wife, Harriet ( with whom he had seven children), on Anishinaabe land.
|Lily of the Mohawk (St. Kateri)|
|Indian Jesus Christ|
That's why I say that Christ to me is still the greatest shaman, and that is why some religious visions are so complex, and so very hard to explain to people. So whenever you are looking at my pictures, you are looking at my visions, whatever they may be." (N.M.)