Paintings by Christopher Donovan and Edgar Rossetti

2019

A collection of paintings curated by Jamie Smallboy: 

Untitled Portrait by Edgar Rossetti

Three paintings by Christopher Donovan

 

Une collection de peintures organisée par Jamie Smallboy:

Portrait (sans titre) par Edgar Rossetti

Trois peintures par Christopher Donovan

 

Creator
Edgar Rossetti and Christopher Smallboy
Source
Private collection and by permission of the artist
Region
Material
Oil, pastel, ink, and acrylic on cardstock, paper, and canvas
Gun painting
Smallboy Prayer
White Tears

Paintings by Edgar Rossetti and Christopher Donovan

Curated by Jamie Smallboy

The group of paintings that completes our exhibition have a different story. These paintings are not fakes. These paintings have not been forged. Instead, they tell truths that often remain untold in museums and galleries. We are exceptionally grateful these paintings were offered to us for this exhibit and that they have come to be a part of the Prud’homme collection.

When Jamie Smallboy heard about our exhibition, she wanted to share a painting she had been given by an artist she knew named Edgar Rossetti.

“This is a hard story to share. I was homeless and addicted several years downtown. When I first met Edgar, he took really good care of himself. He kept his hair tied up. He always wore this black leather vest with fringes and he wore boots and he wore jewellery that he made himself. When I asked him what he did, he told me he was an artist. I thought that was really cool. My brother Christopher is an artist too. At first, they didn’t know each other. Now they paint together all the time.” Jamie describes how she slowly watched Edgar, “this man who had all this pride in himself and what he was doing slowly deteriorate and get absorbed into that whole life and, just like me, that came from years of oppression and years of trauma that I didn’t know I was sick from. Obviously, he didn’t know either. We both were at a place where all we had was the breath in our lungs and the gifts that God gave us.”

“When Edgar gave the painting to me and I saw it, it just hit me, it looks exactly like him, but as a child. The way he described it to my brother is that it represents the missing and murdered people – our people – the white tears are caused by – no offence at all – what white people came and did to our people. We were almost extinct. Everything was taken from us. He himself was a residential school survivor. He went through a lot of trauma and he slowly dwindled from where he’d built himself up to where, like me, he had nothing. Except his painting. Now he paints all the time. I’d say he’s content. He lives outside in the traditional ways as much as he can, has campfires and builds shelters until the police come and take them down.”

Jamie brought Edgar’s painting to us and invited her brother Christopher to bring his paintings too. “Everything that he and my brother paint, where it comes from, it comes from somewhere real.” She saw the work as a narrative, a collection that tells a story together:

“I don’t want to take credit for Edgar’s painting. It’s his painting. But I though the story behind it was really touching and I thought it was a story that would fit in your collection – a story that could have been told, but hasn’t been.”

“I see it this way. First, it’s Christopher’s painting of the hunter. This is what life was like.”

Christopher describes the painting: “Here is the medicine. The sweet grass and the smudge. And the hunter is asking the spirit of the deer if he can give up his life so he can feed his family. And there’s the deer. He called it and he came. That was a true belief of our people. It’s true in our culture that you pray to the spirit of whatever it is that you need to come and help and you always give back to Mother Earth. The feather is the protection. It’s the strength of our people.”

Jamie says, “Then it’s Edgar’s heartbreak.”

She points to Christopher’s picture of the man in a headdress holding a gun: “Then it’s our people taking arms trying to defend themselves, defend their way of life, defend their culture, defending everything that they know. Why I asked Christopher to share this one is because, to me, that’s how the white people came. That was their weapon. But now it’s education. It’s our people taking arms, but to me the riffle represents education. That’s our weapon back.”

And this last one, Christopher says, “That’s at the end of the world, where we’ve tried to blow everything up, but there we Cree are, still trying to save the planet.”

Jamie says: “I’ve heard it said that artists will bring change, and I believe so. It feels good that Edgar’s and Christopher’s work will be shared. It gives me butterflies to know that.”

“It’s a chance to learn about our people,” Christopher says.

 

 

Jamie Smallboy and Christopher Donovan’s Family History

 

A bit of our history. We’re Cree. We’re from a reserve that used to be called Meindart Hobbema, named after a Dutch painter. But now it’s called Maskwacis, renamed in 2014. We come from a family of twelve siblings. One passed away. He was killed by a drunk driver in 1985. There’s seven boys and five girls. Both my parents went to residential school. My mom was raised by her grandfather that we call mosôm. Chief Dan Minded. He was a Chief of our reserve for about thirty years. He led after the treaties were made and the Indian Act was put into place. Despite the Indian Agents and the Indian Act, he was a strong leader: compassionate and generous. Our great-great-grandfather, Chief Bobtail, his name was Kesayiwew. He was cousin to Big Bear and they have a lot of history. So our great-grand-father on my Dad’s side was an original signatory to Treaty 6 but the stories that are told say that the only reason he signed is because he saw the death of his people coming to the point where they were almost going to be non-existent so what I’ve learned is that would be called under duress. He wouldn’t have given up. He was a renegade. Before there was ever a border our families migrated all over the continent. We have family in North Dakota, we have family in Washington, we have family in Montana, we have family in the Blood Reserve. Family we’re just learning about in Winnipeg. Chief Big Bear and Chief Bobtail were considered renegades and they led their people to survival along mother earth as long as they possibly could, until he ended up signing because he saw the death of our people coming. That’s where we come from. We come from traditional and hereditary leaders but once treaties were put in place and the Indian Act came in that all changed and now it’s an elective system and it’s not a good system for our people. Having been forced to go to residential school, all of us, there’s a lot of trauma that rippled through generations to us which is why I personally ended up lost and homeless on the streets and terribly terribly addicted. Why my children have been in care. My brother is stronger though. He was able to raise his boys by himself without them ending up in care. He’s been in two horrible accidents that he could have died in, and yet he’s here and he goes out helping people and does his paintings. He comes every day to help me with my five kids. Talks a lot about God and his faith. And he helps people. He has his blind friend Virgil that people take advantage of because he’s in the downtown eastside and people take advantage of his disability but my brother Chris is there to help him. So we’re Cree. Our reserve is called Maskwacis. Both our parents are gone. We have a huge family. Like I said, there are twelve of us and each one of us have children. Some of the children already have children that have children. And we’re a family of artists: dancers, singers, musicians, painters.

 

Jamie Smallboy and Christopher Donovan’s Family History

A bit of our history. We’re Cree. We’re from a reserve that used to be called Meindart Hobbema, named after a Dutch painter. But now it’s called Maskwacis, renamed in 2014. We come from a family of twelve siblings. One passed away. He was killed by a drunk driver in 1985. There’s seven boys and five girls. Both my parents went to residential school. My mom was raised by her grandfather that we call mosôm. Chief Dan Minded. He was a Chief of our reserve for about thirty years. He led after the treaties were made and the Indian Act was put into place. Despite the Indian Agents and the Indian Act, he was a strong leader: compassionate and generous. Our great-great-grandfather, Chief Bobtail, his name was Kesayiwew. He was cousin to Big Bear and they have a lot of history. So our great-grand-father on my Dad’s side was an original signatory to Treaty 6 but the stories that are told say that the only reason he signed is because he saw the death of his people coming to the point where they were almost going to be non-existent so what I’ve learned is that would be called under duress. He wouldn’t have given up. He was a renegade. Before there was ever a border our families migrated all over the continent. We have family in North Dakota, we have family in Washington, we have family in Montana, we have family in the Blood Reserve. Family we’re just learning about in Winnipeg. Chief Big Bear and Chief Bobtail were considered renegades and they led their people to survival along mother earth as long as they possibly could, until he ended up signing because he saw the death of our people coming. That’s where we come from. We come from traditional and hereditary leaders but once treaties were put in place and the Indian Act came in that all changed and now it’s an elective system and it’s not a good system for our people. Having been forced to go to residential school, all of us, there’s a lot of trauma that rippled through generations to us which is why I personally ended up lost and homeless on the streets and terribly terribly addicted. Why my children have been in care. My brother is stronger though. He was able to raise his boys by himself without them ending up in care. He’s been in two horrible accidents that he could have died in, and yet he’s here and he goes out helping people and does his paintings. He comes every day to help me with my five kids. Talks a lot about God and his faith. And he helps people. He has his blind friend Virgil that people take advantage of because he’s in the downtown eastside and people take advantage of his disability but my brother Chris is there to help him. So we’re Cree. Our reserve is called Maskwacis. Both our parents are gone. We have a huge family. Like I said, there are twelve of us and each one of us have children. Some of the children already have children that have children. And we’re a family of artists: dancers, singers, musicians, painters.

Date