Environmental Matters

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Balance in Nature
ecology, nature, motion, wrestling, asymmetry, untamed, human survival in environment, power, nature as powerful force, cosmological, spiritual, interdependence, graphic style, figures, body, ecology, warrior, survival, nature

In the Canadian Encyclopedia writer Ruth Phillips summarizes Beardy’s artistic career this way:

Although Beardy’s early work often narrates specific legends, his mature art expresses fundamental  cosmologicalOf or pertaining to cosmology - the science of the world or universe; or a treatise relating to the structure and parts of the system of creation, the elements of bodies, the modifications of material things, the laws of motion, and the order and course of nature.  (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)  and spiritual concepts such as balance in nature, regeneration and growth to the  interdependenceMutual dependence.  of all things. His distinctive graphic  styleA way of doing something. Use of materials, methods of working, design qualities and choice of subject matter reflect the style of the individual, culture, movement, or time period.  is characterized by precisely defined flat areas of warm  colourProduced by light of various wavelengths, and when light strikes an object and reflects back to the eyes. Colour is an element of art with three properties: (1) hue or tint, the colour name, e.g., red, yellow, blue, etc.: (2) intensity, the purity and strength of a colour, e.g., bright red or dull red; and (3) value, the lightness or darkness of a colour. When the spectrum is organized as a color wheel, the colours are divided into groups called primary, secondary and intermediate (or tertiary) colours; analogous and complementary, and also as warm and cool colours. Colours can be objectively described as saturated, clear, cool, warm, deep, subdued, grayed, tawny, mat, glossy, monochrome, multicolored, particolored, variegated, or polychromed. Some words used to describe colours are more subjective (subject to personal opinion or taste), such as: exciting, sweet, saccharine, brash, garish, ugly, beautiful, cute, fashionable, pretty, and sublime. Sometimes people speak of colours when they are actually refering to pigments, what they are made of (various natural or synthetic substances), their relative permanence, etc. (Artlex.com)  and curving ribbons of paint. (Phillips)

In Balance In Nature we see the work of a more mature Beardy and, as the title suggests, it communicates ideas related to ecology. In this  stylizedTo stylize is to alter natural shapes, forms, colours, or textures in order to make a representation in a preset style or manner. The design of any work tends to result in its having a style, and its having been freely chosen is one aspect of its appeal. "Stylization" suggests a more controlled application of a style, the artist having less freedom of choice. (Artlex.com)  work, two figures are joined in one body, ‘man’ on one side and ‘nature‘, represented by the bear, on the other. There is a suggestion of motion created by the curving upswept line and the two characters appear to be wrestling. They are balanced asymmetrically and outlined with a brown-coloured paint. ‘Man’ is reaching out and looking toward ‘nature’ while ‘nature’ turns away and maintains a powerful untamed expression.

The body form is sky/water blue and contains cell-like forms reminiscent of the basic components necessary for life. The ‘man’s’ face contains brown, white, and blue, and he is a warrior adorned with a headdress. Is it possible that this multi-coloured face could suggest that while we may have different skin colours we also take a place together in the bigger picture we call the universe?

snow picture


The struggle suggested in this work represents ideas of man‘s survival within the environment. Thinking about tsunamis, cyclones and unforgiving prairie blizzards, we can see that while we think we may be superior, nature is a powerful force that needs to be respected. Beardy, storyteller/artist that he is, visually counsels us to revere our environment and protect it if we hope to support future generations. We cannot turn our back on nature and our environment or there will be serious consequences.

additional resources Things to Think About
  • Have you ever experienced the power of nature and felt threatened by its force?
  • What can be done to ensure that the environment is maintained for future generations? What do you do to contribute to this? If you are not already doing something, why not start in some small way? We all can make a difference!  Name three things you might do.  Choose to begin one.  Make a contract with yourself.
  • Learn about residential schools and the impact they have had on many Aboriginal people.
  • Learn about policies and rules established by the Canadian government to control Aboriginal people in the early decades of the twentieth century.  Find out how things have changed.  What has happened to make things different/better?
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Mural Design

After Jackson Beardy died in 1985, a teacher named Jerry Johnson took on a class project to paint a Beardy mural. He involved his Graphic Arts Class at R.B. Russel Vocational School in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and they painted a mural titled, Peace and Harmony on the Indian Family Center on Selkirk Avenue in Winnipeg. The mural was one of the last projects Beardy designed, although he never had a chance to paint it.

To view this mural go to http://themuralsofwinnipeg.com, enter the site, and search for Jackson Beardy.


Here are some activities you can do relating to murals:

  • View examples of murals in your own community.
  • Draw the images contained in each box on the paper into the corresponding square on the wall. 




After viewing the Beardy work, think about how he combined two objects to produce a whole new image and communicate meaning.  Now, it’s your turn:

  • Think about an environmental issue you would like to address.
  • Come up with a list of objects and living creatures related to the issue you chose.
  • Pick two opposites, like a bird and a oil well, an exhaust stack and a rose, a discarded pop bottle and a tomato plant. Use both images but have one morph into the other to communicate your message.

Petten, Cheryl.  ‘Jackson Beardy Inspired Storyteller Respected Artist.’  Wind Speaker, June1, 2004.  Retrieved from the Internet on October 20, 2008 from:   http://www.ammsa.com/buffalospirit/2004/footprints-JBeardy.html

Philips, Ruth.  ‘Beardy, Jackson.’  The Canadian Encylopedia.  Retrieved from the Internet on October 20, 2008 from: http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0000588.

Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning