Iconic Dene artist Dr. Alex Janvier CM AOE RCA may be 82, but he`s still painting, still inspiring succeeding generations . . . and still receiving awards.
His most recent honor is the 2017 Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Distinguished Artist Award which also went to poet Alice Major and composer John Estacio. At a recent presentation luncheon at the Banff Centre each recipient received a handcrafted medal, $30,000 and a two-week residency at the Banff Centre`s Leighton Artist`s Studio.
His many other awards include the Order of Canada; the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal; the Alberta Order of Excellence; honorary doctorates from the University of British Columbia, the University of Calgary and the University of Alberta, the Alberta Centennial Medal; and the Governor General Award in Visual and Media Arts.
Born of Dene Suline and Saulteaux descent on the Cold Lake (Alberta) Reserve in 1935, Alex was eight years old when he was uprooted from his home and sent to the Blue Quills Indian Residential School near St. Paul, Alberta. Although Janvier says he had a creative instinct from as far back as he can remember, it was at the residential school that he was given the tools to create his first paintings. Unlike many Aboriginal artists of his time, Janvier went on to receive formal art training from the Alberta College of Art in Calgary and graduated with honours in 1960. Immediately after graduation, Janvier accepted an opportunity to instruct art at the University of Alberta.
While Alex credits the influence of artists Wassily Kandinsky (Russian) and Paul Klee (Swiss), his style is unique. Many of his masterpieces involve an eloquent blend of both abstract and representational images with bright, often symbolic colours. As a First Nations person emerging from a history of oppression and many struggles for cultural empowerment, Janvier paints both the challenges and celebrations that he has encountered in his lifetime. Alex proudly credits the beadwork and birch bark basketry of his mother and other relatives as influencing his art.
As a member of the commonly referred to “Indian Group of Seven”, Janvier is one of the significant pioneering Aboriginal artists in Canada, and as such has influenced many generations of Aboriginal artists. By virtue of his art, Janvier was selected to represent Canada in a Canadian/Chinese Cultural Exchange in 1985.
Although he has completed several murals nationally, Janvier speaks of the 450 square-meter circular masterpiece entitled “Morning Star” on the ceiling of the Canadian Museum of Civilization (now History), as a major highlight in his career. In January 2004, one of Janvier’s works was displayed in Paris, France at the Canadian Forum on e Cultural Enterprise.
Last year, a Janvier design was replicated in bits of glass in a 45-foot in diameter installation at the entrance to the new Rogers Centre arena in Edmonton–a $1 million art project.
In recognition of his success, Alex Janvier recently received three prestigious Lifetime Achievement Awards from the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation, The Tribal Chiefs Institute, and Cold Lake First Nations. Janvier’s passion and natural talents for creative expression remains strong to this day.
In 2012 the new Janvier Gallery opened on Cold Lake First Nations 149B, which is located north of the City of Cold Lake.