Art Gallery of Grande Prairie

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Past Exhibitions

75 Million:Bison Drawings of Adrian Stimson

December 8, 2010 - January 23, 2011

Curated by Todd Schaber of The Art Gallery of Grande Prairie
Alberta Foundation for the Arts, Travelling Exhibition program

Location: Grande Prairie Public Library, 9839-103 Avenue

Shortly before he died, Plenty Coups, the last great Chief of the Crow Nation, told his story — up to a certain point. “When the buffalo went away the hearts of my people fell to the ground,” he said, “and they could not lift them up again. After this nothing happened.”1

Ernest Thompson Seton, naturalist, just after the turn of the century determined to estimate the number of bison in North America pre-contact; he undertook a rigorous process of mathematics, logic and comparisons to domestic animals living on the plains. “Seton figured there were 75million buffalo in North America before the white man arrived”2

This group of 25 drawings are both realistic representations and imagined petroglyph styled stories of the great bison saga of North America. The realistic representations come from photos of bison that Adrian has taken over the years, the petroglyph styled drawings come from his research into historical petroglyphs that have been reimagined, or the creation of contemporary mythologies.

This series of drawings seeks to demonstrate both the discipline of drawing and the layered meanings in drawn stories. The historical slaughter of the bison was a part of the decimation of First Nations in the Americas, a deliberate and brutal attempt to destroy not only the bison but also the people who relied on the bison for sustenance. Yet both have survived and live to relate their ongoing story.

Adrian’s desire in creating this series is to honour the memory of the bison and its resilience. To study and promote its return to the territories it once dominated. The history of the bison is analogous to his Blackfoot being, and for Adrian, in our time, the bison remain a source of inspiration, imagination and life.

1 Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation, Jonathan Lear internet – http://www.powells.com/biblio/0-9780674023291-0

2 Dary, David A. The Buffalo Book, Swallow Press Ohio University Press 1989 pg.29

Alberta Foundation for the Arts