(Port Alberni, British Columbia 1905 – Victoria 1988)
Acrylic on cedar board cladding
Exterior mural, Indians of Canada Pavilion, Expo 67
© Estate of George Clutesi. Photo: Library and Archives Canada, Accession number PA-173167, item 2296-1, 1970-019 NPC
The Indians of Canada Pavilion at the 1967 Montréal World’s Fair gave Indigenous artists like George Clutesi the opportunity to decorate the buildings inside and out. Inspired by the mythology of the Tseshaht people, the exterior mural created by Clutesi pictured animals surging along a strong diagonal. The simplified, deconstructed forms and the flat planes of black, white and red recall not only the traditional compositions of Charles Edenshaw, but also the kind of pictorial modernism defined by schematized shapes and colours.
George Clutesi, a member of the Tseshaht First Nation, was encouraged to paint by Emily Carr and did so mainly in the 1940s and 50s. In 1967, he was invited to create a mural for the Indians of Canada Pavilion at Expo 67. As an elder, he urged his fellow artists to seize the opportunity to deliver an message to visitors from around the world, despite changes demanded by the organizing committee, which included government officials. Clutesi had foresight, because the Indians of Canada Pavilion is now considered the starting point for the rise of Indigenous activism in the years that followed.
Not long after bursting onto the Toronto art scene in 1962, Norval Morrisseau was commissioned to design a mural for the Indians of Canada Pavilion at the 1967 Montreal World’s Fair. For inspiration, Morrisseau, who was later dubbed the Picasso of the North, turned to ancient Anishinaabe legends and modern European art. But his preparatory sketches of a woman nursing a bear cub shocked the Pavilion organizers, who demanded changes. Morrisseau withdrew from the project and turned it over to his assistant, Carl Ray, who completed the mural with the required alterations.