October 2009: Coming Home, painting by Zoey Wood-Salomon
Header image: Coming Home, painting by Zoey Wood-Salomon

Featured Artist: Zoey Wood-Salomon

.Zoey Wood-Salomon with her 2006 Best of Show Award (photo by Paul D. Freedman) .. Zoey Wood-Salomon with this year’s Graphic Award (photo by Eric Demaray)

Zoey Wood-Salomon with her 2006 Best of Show Award (photo by Paul D. Freedman) and with this year’s Graphic Award (photo by Eric Demaray)

Almost everybody likely to read this newsletter knows the work of Zoey Wood-Salomon. Her first appearance in the Sault Summer Arts Festival was in 2006 when she won the Best of Show Award. Last year and again, this year she took the Graphics Award. Her work has been in more juried shows that we could possibly mention—throughout Canada, and in the Olive Craig Gallery and the Crooked Tree Gallery in the U.S. She has designed logos for the American Indian Studies Program and the Indigenous Law and Policy Center at Michigan State University and eight different institutions in Canada. Her Christmas cards have been marketed by nineteen organizations and institutions, including the Smithsonian in Washington D.C.

Zoey’s entry to the art world was instigated by Peter Migwans. Zoey writes,

It was around 1981 when I went to see my good friend Peter Migwans. . . . I really wanted to get a native art painting for my husband Jim as a gift. I asked Peter, “Do you sell cheaper to your people?” . . . Peter got up, left the room and he came back with a canvas 20” x 24”, then he handed it to me and I looked at it. It was blank. He said to me, “you’re an Anishnabe Kwe, you can do your own painting”. . . . I looked at it and started to think. My husband had seen my earlier sketches and had encouraged me to start painting but I though he was only saying that because he was my husband. So here was Peter telling me the same thing. . . My first painting was a watercolor on canvas, something that instructors in art would have told me if I went to school that it was something that you could not do. It was called Man and the Spirit Birds. My husband loved it and it hangs today in our home. My Mother also complimented me on it which was good for the soul. . . In January of the following year, my husband Jim went out to see Peter and asked him what I needed to get started. Peter gave him a list so Jim went out and spent approximately $200 on art supplies and he brought them home. . .

Now living in Sault, Ontario, Zoey, an Odawa Indian, is from the Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve on Manitoulin Island. Zoey says she is self taught—she has no formal art education. Like the great artists of the past, however, she learned by watching and listening to other artists, beginning with Peter Migwans and including Gordie Fisher, Cecil Youngfox, Brian Fox and John Laford. Her husband, Jim, played a critical role, beginning with his gift of art supplies. He booked her first exhibit (without telling her) and has supported and encouraged her all along the way.

Zoey says she is heavily influenced by her own spiritual odyssey as a Christian; that her work puts her in touch with her culture, her heritage, her people and herself. “When I paint I pray. I find I get very dissatisfied with myself when I do not paint because I pray better when I paint; and so, if I am not painting, I am not praying . . . For each painting there is a story or a poem. The painting comes first. Then I just leave it there in my mind until the writing comes. . . We don’t know what a person has gone through in life and what pain he/she carries in their heart but if I can be used by my Creator in my work of art as a channel for His joy and His healing for His people, then let it be.”

Zoey’s work is, in many ways, a melding of opposites. She paints in the traditional Woodland Indian style, but the work has a clean, modern look to it. Colors are vibrant, but the overall effect is of calm and serenity. The themes are universal, but the work is very personal. There is much that is innovative and different, but there is also a strong sense of discipline, order and mastery of media. Some of her works are very small. Her exhibition in the Alberta House Mini Gallery in 2005 was of 5 x 7” miniatures, and her cards are a big part of her repertoire, but a piece in the O.C. Gallery’s most recent juried show, Home, is large, indeed. Traditional she may be, but predictable she is not. You can see her work at Rose’s Art Gallery in Sault, Ontario, at the Green Oak Gallery in Richard’s Landing on St. Joseph Island, at the Iroquois Artisans in Bala, Ontario, at Alberta House, and in many juried shows.

Works by Zoey Wood-Salomon
Click on a thumbnail to see a larger version.

Coming Home, by Zoey Wood-Salomon

Coming Home, from the Home Exhibit

Lake Superior Woman, by Zoey Wood-Salomon

Lake Superior Woman, from the Home Exhibit

Medicine Man, by Zoey Wood-Salomon

Medicine Man

 Accepting, by Zoey Wood-Salomon

Zoey’s SAAC Auction donation
(5” x 7”)

Last updated: October 1, 2009

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