Acquisitions Spotlight Smaller
Spring 2010
Anong Migwans Beam
First Nations art is a small portion of the overall AGNS collection, accounting for just 1% of the 15,000 works.  That said, it is also a part of the collection that engenders a lot of interest and the curatorial staff actively pursues the acquisition of strong pieces for this collection.  When Dr. John Krawczyk offered several works by young First Nations artist Anong Migwans Beam - daughter of internationally renowned artists Ann and Carl Beam – the AGNS Curatorial and Acquisition Committees very happily approved them for acquisition.  

Having primarily grown up in the M’Chigeeng community on Manitoulin Island, Anong spent the first several years of her life in New Mexico, and returned there to attend the Institute of American Indian Art (IAIA).  Her studies were not limited to IAIA - she has attended the Ontario College of Art and Design and the School of the Museum of Fine Art in Boston.  

Also known for her wonderful ceramics, these particular works draw from the photo transfer and emulsion techniques developed by her parents, and juxtapose nature, spirituality and politics with First Nations, Japanese and Hindu forms and traditions.  The photo mixed media approach she employs has gained popularity; fellow IAIA artist Mateo Romero has recently explored this technique with his uniquely Pueblo approach, as has Alan Syliboy using his own Mi’kmaq imagery.  

Beam, Resistor
Resistor, 2003Mixed media on canvas
50.5 x 40.2 cm
Gift of Dr. John Krawczyk, New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, 2008

Employing photo transfer, stencil and painting, Resistor is a powerful work in primary colours.  The image of a young woman in traditional native clothing against a sere high desert background is surmounted by the crackling image of the Thunderbird.  The visceral drippings of the red against the blue call to mind the death and destruction of the protector and those whom it protects.  An orange stencil proclaiming “Resistor” adds to the layered work recalling the abilities of the Thunderbird, the use of this term to mean a device that resists the flow of electrical current, as well as the homonym “resister” that brings to mind the centuries of First Nation resistance movements.  Subtle humour and a political voice are common threads in Anong’s work.

Beam, Potential Energy
Potential Energy, 2003Mixed media on canvas
50.5 x 40.4 cm
Gift of Dr. John Krawczyk, New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, 2008

Potential Energy continues this thematic use of science juxtaposed with art in a playful image of a multi-armed young woman that immediately recalls similar Hindu deities.  Unlike those deities, each hand is not holding a symbol that represents aspects of their power, the hands are instead empty.  With this simple lack, Anong presents the potential energy not just in what those limbs could be physically capable of, but also how this figure could be spiritually equipped. 

Beam, Love in the Dark City
Love in the Dark City, 2003Mixed media on canvas
50.6 x 40.0 cm
Gift of Dr. John Krawczyk, New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, 2008

Love in the Dark City is a more personal work, employing the visual of an x-rayed left hand, with the engagement and wedding rings encircling the bones of the ring finger.  The rings evoke the image of the sacred circle hinted at by the bright slashes of colour along three cardinal points.  The image of the dull grey skeletal hand is one that delves into the idea of mortality, love, death, and the vows that invoke the same imagery.

Beam, Tender Heart
Tender Heart, 2003Mixed media on canvas
50.6 x 40.4 cm
Gift of Dr. John Krawczyk, New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, 2008

The final work by Anong Beam in this donation is Tender Heart, with the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet, in a teaching pose.  Among the embellishments are six stars - symbols found throughout the world, but for those familiar with the Buddhist teachings the number is symbolic of the Six Paramitas (Perfections) – Generosity, Ethics, Patience, Joyous Effort/Enthusiastic Perseverance, Concentration and Wisdom.   The word “CROWN” draws the eye; the bold colour dominates the work and it is here that the political once again is reasserted.  Drawing the mind to the political turmoil of Tibet and China it emphasises the Dalai Lama as an exile, despite his important position within Tibet.   

As part of a new generation of First Nations artists, and one with a strong family background in the arts, Anong Beam’s works make welcome additions, not only in contrast to the work by artists such as Carl Beam and Jane Ash Poitras who hold key places in the AGNS collection, but also as powerful pieces which draw on political elements and on world mythologies beyond what is considered the traditional ken of First Nation artists.  

Shannon Parker
Curator of Collections
Tel 902 424 8457
Fax 902 424 0750