A Colourful Life: Bringing Home the Art of James Beaver Opens January 27, 2015

Posted 15/01/15 in EVENTS

Mention the name of the artist James Beaver and most people, even those from Six Nations of the Grand River, are not aware of who he is; his artworks, or his significance to the community history of Six Nations.  With only 43 known works of art credited to him, Beaver may have slipped into obscurity where it not for his fine hand at carving and furniture-making.  Throughout the community of Six Nations examples of Beaver's intricately carved canes, detailed lintel work, handcrafted pews, and even the chairs used in the old Six Nations Council House, can still be discovered.  In the communities surrounding Six Nations, evidence of his painting skills are often 'uncovered' when a family removes layers of wallpaper from their old farm house walls and find a wall mural indicative of James Beaver.  Recently, a person in the United States did a little internet research on an old painting that was left in the house he purchased five years ago - it was a James Beaver, which he later sold at an auction for over $5000.00.

Born in 1846, James Beaver was a Cayuga whose family gave their name to the intersection where they lived, Beaver's Corner at Six Nations.  Not much is known of Beaver's early life.  He was illiterate which leads to the assumption he had very little if any formal schooling.  As a young man we do know James lived the nomadic existence of a medicine show entertainer known as "Uncle Beaver - Indian Juggler".  This love of travel followed him into his painting career.  He would take a train trip to wherever the money in his pocket would get him.  Once at his destination, James would trade his painting skills for room and board, or the fare to get home.  Beaver's found his niche in the painting of private homes and businesses.  At a time when a photograph meant traveling to a studio, and there were few privately owned cameras, Beaver's ability to paint one's family home, farm, or newspaper office (Yes, James Beaver did paint the office of the Caledonia Sachem.  A painting featured in this exhibition through the courtesy of the Edinburgh Square Heritage and Cultural Centre.), was an affordable way for the middle class to capture the essence of their property.

Beaver also enjoyed painting scenes from nature; events of his time; and aspects of his traditional Haudenosaunee culture.  He painted scenery for plays, panels for cabinets, and murals for walls.  He painted for the joy of painting.

The Woodland Cultural Centre is pleased to present 30 pieces of art attributed to James Beaver at the exhibition A Colourful Life.  Twelve of the pieces on display will find a permanent home at the Woodland Cultural Centre (in addition to the 8 pieces already in the collection), thanks to a grant from the Six Nations Community Development Trust Fund which allowed the Centre to purchase the pieces from a private collector.  The Centre invites all to attend the opening of A Colourful Life on January 27, 2015 at 7 p.m.  Please plan to attend - who knows you may go home and discover you own a James Beaver!

click any image to enlarge.