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Early Days: Indigenous Art from the McMichael at the Heard Museum, Phoenix, Arizona. September 1, 2023 to January 2, 2024. The exhibition will also tour to the Albuquerque Museum (Albuquerque, New Mexico) from January 27 to April 21, 2024; and to the Chrysler Museum of Art (Norfolk, Virginia) from May 24 – September 2, 2024. An exhibition catalogue is also available.
Early Days is the first survey of Canadian Indigenous art of this scope to be presented internationally, and explores our relationship to the land, to our ancestors, and to each other. As the only museum in Canada devoted exclusively to Canadian art, the McMichael’s collection offers a definitive account of Indigenous art in Canada today, and the powerful tensions and continuities that exist between the present and the past. Early Days explores our relationship to the land, to our ancestors, and to each other. Organized by the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in collaboration with current Indigenous stakeholders—scholars, traditional knowledge keepers, and living artists—the exhibition includes both historical and contemporary art from coast-to-coast-to-coast. Showcasing the diversity and vitality of Indigenous art in Canada, Early Days features objects ranging from 18th-century ceremonial regalia to the work of the vanguard artists of the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s. From its beginnings, the McMichael has had a long and proud history of collecting Indigenous art, now with more than 1,500 works ranging from eighteenth-century ceremonial regalia, through to items made for trade with settlers, to works by the vanguard of artists coming of age in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. Also included are recent acquisitions reflecting the diversity and vitality of Indigenous art in Canada today.
In early 2013, while studying the work of 19th century Swiss artist Karl Bodmer (1809-1893), Ace was inspired by an aquatint engraving that depicted trail-duster moccasins of the northern plains and upper Missouri River. Ace came across a beautifully rendered hand-coloured aquatint of two Mandan warriors in full regalia entitled Sih-Chida (Yellow Feather) and Mahchsi-Karehde (Flying War Eagle) (1833).
In 2014, Ace was gifted a vintage pair of Fluevog classic “Swordfish” boots that would become the basis for his direct contemporary response Bodmer’s depiction of the moccasins worn by Sih-Chida (Yellow Feather) in Nigik Makazinan (Otter Moccasins). In 2017, the National Gallery of Canada acquired Nigik Makizinan (Otter Moccasins) (2014) for their permanent collection. In 2016, Ace responded to the second pair of moccasins worn by Mahchsi-Karehde (Flying War Eagle) depicted in Bodmer’s aquatint with the creation of Fox Tail Moccasins (2016). These moccasins were acquired by the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in 2022. Both works are now placed in two important Canadian fine art public collections.
For more information on Ace’s trail duster moccasins: