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Indigenous artwork on display downtown

Artist recognized internationally for work

Indigenous artwork by artist James Mishibinijima is currently on display at the former Genosha Hotel, 70 King St. (Photo by Randy Nickerson)

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

The former Genosha Hotel has opened a display in its front windows with art from Indigenous artist James Mishibinijima.

Located at 70 King St. E., the pop up display is meant to brighten people’s drives through downtown, according to building owner Rick Summers.

Now called 70 King, Summers says he is looking to encourage the community with art during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He says they partnered with Mishibinijima and a Christmas lighting company called Skedaddle to “create a nice display along King Street for everybody.”

He says Mishibinijima was referred to them by the Downtown Oshawa Business Improvement Area.

“Oshawa needs encouragement, and we really want to promote investing and buying local by doing our part supporting others,” he explains. “So we thought a really cool and really unique art display in our prime frontage. We also thought everyone loves Christmas… so this whole entire side… will be lit up.”

He jokes that it will be tastefully lit and not like the house in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, which was so bright it blinded the neighbours.

“We’re just excited to be able to do something nice for the community,” he says. “Really, it’s just about encouraging everybody to spend a little more this season. The downtown businesses and downtown charities have been hit hard. So if we don’t spend, this economic engine doesn’t work well.”

Mishibinijima says he chose Oshawa to display his art because he has a very good friend in the city who has supported him for the past 30 or 40 years named Gene Chorney. He jokes part of the reason he chose the paintings on display at 70 King is because they were in Chorney’s collection.

Mishibinijima says he has a number of art styles, but he always goes back to one: Mishimountain.

“Mishimountain was coined by art collectors who collect my mountain artwork. It’s the style with people, with tress, with cliffs, and Ojibwe pictorial images on it,” he says.

He notes this particular style takes a lot of energy as it’ll take him three or four months to paint one. He points out they will have anywhere from 30,000 to 60,000 shades of colour in one piece.

Mishibinijima has been recognized internationally for his work, even giving a painting to Pope John Paul II.

“That image came from a vision – a dream, where I was walking below a cedar… and in this dream, I see this lake… so I started walking towards it… and that’s where John Paul sat,” he says.

The pope then asked him to “paint my rock” which took him about four or five months to complete.

“The most challenging part of that painting was the hands. I probably did them about four times,” he says, adding he wanted to make sure the age of the hands matched the pope.

Then through some personal connections, he was given the opportunity to go to the Vatican and give Pope John Paul II the painting himself.

Mishibinijima’s art is currently on display at 70 King Street for all to see.