Detail from the painting ‘Curiosity’ created specially for the exhibition. (Ice Bear painting)

Detail from the painting ‘Curiosity’ created specially for the exhibition. (Ice Bear painting)

Renowned Ojibway artist IceBear sees solo exhibition

Exhibition at Portals Gallery until Aug. 20

Well-known on the Peninsula, artist IceBear’s latest exhibition is attracting attention across the Island.

The Cowichan Public Art Gallery is presenting a major solo exhibition of the internationally renowned Ojibway artist, titled The Modern Age Dreams of a Dreamer, until Aug. 20.

The exhibition is intended to spark conversation on universal themes around concern for the environment and climate change while creating space for audiences to explore and discuss the broader topic of reconciliation. IceBear’s art invokes imagination, and this exhibition provides a fine selection of his paintings, sculpture and mixed media, both new and on loan from private collections.

Individuals may see different expressions of life within this exhibition. IceBear’s work explores natural, spiritual, and animal themes, with the goal of sparking unfettered conversations. Many ancient Ojibway teachings revolve around the Seven Fires Prophecies. The artist believes those seven prophecies have been fulfilled, and we are now in what is called ‘the time of The Eighth Fire,’ a choice between two paths.

IceBear explains, “none of the issues plaguing our society today will be resolved if people stay safely on their own side of the road without opening themselves to the risky business of having serious conversations with those they perceive as different, or not one of us. Truth and Reconciliation actually includes, and indeed requires, truth, consequences, and acceptance of responsibility for the effects our actions have not only on other lives but also on the environment as a whole.

“As an artist, I hope to encourage people to look, to see, and to consider something out of their normal milieu, perhaps out of their comfort zone. And then to talk about it with those coming from a different and perhaps opposite perspective. Finding common points of interest, talking about those points, sharing their own vision, and discovering that someone with whom they thought would share nothing actually perceives some things in the same way. This puts them on the same path together, even if only briefly. But it is a start. And that is how reconciliation will come about. Quietly, gently, with conversation and understanding.”

IceBear was born into the Ojibway community known as Chippewas of Nawash, on the Bruce Peninsula just north of Wiarton, Ont. He was one of the children gathered up in what came to be known as the Sixties Scoop. He was raised by the state but, by rare good fortune, found support for his art at the day school he attended. A nun who recognized his talent took on the challenge of getting him into formal art training at a very early age. Then, the first positive male role model in his life, a high school art teacher named Jim Henderson, spent time with a troubled young artist and set his feet on a path forward.

From his initial strong graphic images with clear aboriginal roots to the wild abstracts that now fill walls, his work over the years has explored multiple genres and themes, in two and three dimensions, governed only by the visions that fill his head. His work has been exhibited in France, Italy, Austria, New York, Dallas, Sacramento, Beijing and Taiwan, and many points in between. Major public artworks can also be found in Sidney and Victoria.

The Portals Gallery will be open daily, Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. For more information, go to


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