Bockley Gallery is honored to present a selection of over one hundred works from Jim Denomie’s Painting-a-Day—a series of 430 intimately scaled oil-on-canvas paintings created through a daily practice in 2005.
Denomie (1955–2022), a member of the Lac Courte Oreille Band of Ojibwe, is celebrated for his sweeping narrative-based history paintings that incisively amalgamate and comment on Native lived experiences within the broader context of state, national and global politics. Skillfully working in color and incorporating pop culture, the dreamworld, erotic, and spiritual references, Denomie’s imagery is playful, often darkly comic, and always revelatory.
A long-time friend of Denomie, poet Heid Erdrich, wrote how his art is “rammed full of figures of all sorts—splendid, sordid, historical, animal, vegetable, mineral and machine.” His Painting-a-Day series primarily focuses on such figures, mostly singularly. In this way, not presented as a character within his episodic storytelling, our attention becomes focused on his gestural, brushy, colorful, impasto surfaces and their expressive variations. There are human and more-than-human head-and-shoulders portraits of women, warriors, androgynous beings, children, men—many adorned with headbands and a single feather, almost all with prominent breasts, many showing teeth in open mouths “grin[ning] like death and grin[ning] like life.” There are abstractions, a butterfly, a fish, birds, and importantly, there is wabooz (Ojibwe for rabbit), a figure who inhabits many of Denomie’s paintings, who he identified with as the trickster Nanaboujou, as well as his alter ego.
Following his year-long daily ritual, Denomie returned to storytelling with renewed energy. As we engage with this plethora of works—standing on their own, and speaking amongst each other in a vibrant, vocal constellation“—we might heed Denomie’s own words on Painting-a-Day to “get supple,” and witness these portal-filled realms.
Friday, September 15, 5:00 to 7:00 pm