Art Gallery of Sudbury | Galerie d'art de Sudbury
251 rue John Street
Benjamin Chee Chee
The Art Gallery of Sudbury invites you to the opening reception and celebration for Benjamin Chee Chee: Life and Legacy, an exhibition of paintings, as well as personal items and documents, from this nationally renowned artist.
Originally from Temagami First Nation, Benjamin Chee Chee (March 26, 1944 – March 14, 1977) first captivated Canada’s contemporary Indigenous art scene with his Nicholas Art Gallery exhibition in Ottawa, Ontario, in 1973. During his four years as a full-time professional visual artist in Montreal and Ottawa, Benjamin Chee Chee’s work was prolific and disparate, ranging from his iconic ‘Friends’ and ‘Benji birds’ to his less generally familiar abstracts. At this time, Indigenous artists across Canada had begun to make their voices heard in galleries in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa, and beyond. Benjamin Chee Chee united himself with trailblazing artists such as Norval Morrisseau, Daphne Odjig, and Alex Janvier. “Chee Chee found a ready audience for his unique art, albeit an audience that typically views “Indian Art” within a racial discourse, separate from mainstream Canadian art. Chee Chee and his compatriot artists routinely struggled to resist deeply entrenched stereotypical categorizations held by the art world.” Carmen Robertson writes in her essay, “The Making of a Movement: Chee Chee and Trailblazing Artists of the 1960’s and 1970’s,” included in the accompanying catalogue. Tragically, his life ended in 1977. The exhibition comprises a comprehensive selection of Benjamin Chee Chee’s works gathered from galleries and individuals across the province.
The exhibition presents a personal perspective, honouring his life and work through collaborations, including those with close friends. We thank the Temiskaming Art Gallery, and curator Felicity Buckell, for organizing this exhibition and connecting with friends, family, and community members to collect stories of this young artist full of life.