Artist and Shaman between Two Worlds, 1980
Norval (called Copper Thunderbird) Morrisseau
acrylic on canvas
175 x 282 cm
National Gallery of Canada (no. 41869)
Copyright Norval Morrisseau / Gabe Vadas. Courtesy of Kinsman Robinson Galleries, Toronto.
This is one of the best examples of Morrisseau’s early forays towards a new visual vocabulary. Although a single canvas, it is effectively divided in two halves. The thunderbird and snake at the top create a dramatic combination of these two creatures and a coming together of two spiritual realms, the thunderbird of the upper world and the serpent of the underworld. The two-headed snake extends outwards on each side of the thunderbird’s head; its elongated body becomes the backbone of the thunderbird’s wings, which then terminate on each side with a head of the snake.