Copper Thunderbird is a play on canvases based on the life of Norval Morrisseau. Inside the power-lines which Morrisseau boldly defined in his art were the colours he experienced between his Ojibwa cosmology, his life on the street, and his spiritual and philosophical transformations to become the Father of Contemporary Native Art and a Grand Shaman. Appearing simultaneously in this multi-layered drama as a small boy, a young warrior and an old man, Morrisseau confronts his many selves over the Faustian destiny he encountered during his vision quest—a momentary terror that led to a life wracked by both triumph and ordeal, drawing his vibrant colours, both luminous and dark, from the life-force within him.
Norval Morrisseau is notorious for the life he has led, the company he has kept, the wives, lovers, parasitic drinking buddies and abusive family members he has had and passed through as if they were merely insubstantial phantoms. The paintings he has sold to buy another bottle of alcohol, to get through another brutal day, hang in galleries around the world, a phenomenon Morrisseau himself simply took for granted. Framed variously with the identities of Indian, Artist and Shaman, Copper Thunderbird interrogates both the stereotypes and the politically correct judgments that have manufactured Morrisseau’s public personae, creating a power-figure that transcends culture and morality, earth and water, fire and air.