Gathering Colour

Anong Migwans Beam
Independent artist

Many of my earliest memories are encountering colour with my parents, both practicing artists, and learning to know them as forces, personas with emotions and powers all their own. At three years old, I remember standing on a black paved driveway with my mother standing adult-tall above me. We were both looking up into a canopy of spring green maple leaves, the sun gleaming through them. I asked, “What colour is that?” and she said, “Chartreuse.” I stood feeling full of the gleaming gold colour, smelling the spring green scent of evaporating rain from pavement and leaves. I wanted to know the colour and there, sitting at the base of the tree, I ate the sprouts of budding spring maple and knew the taste of green.

I learned how to collect pigment with my father in the La Cloche mountain range close to home. He taught me how our ancestors made paint to make “mizzins” designs on rockface with hematite to share their histories, proud moments, and cautions. Now in my adult life I have returned to this practice with children of my own, experiencing making paint and colour with them. I have given myself the authority of my experience, and as a paintmaker I have decided to name all my colours in my own language. The act of paintmaking has continued to be a powerful shamanic act for myself as I learned it from my father, and now as I share it with other artists. Giving names to the colours is claiming an experience of the world, saying that it is not just the purview of European colour men and that tradition but also my own, which includes them and encompasses more, giving back to all creative people an experience of colour that grounds them in this land and all the stories it holds.

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Bio: Anong Migwans Beam is a painter, mother, paint-maker, and curator, living and working in her home community of M’Chigeeng First Nation on Manitoulin Island. After studying art at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, OCAD University, and the Institute of American Indian Arts, she returned home to be a studio assistant for her father, Carl Beam. Her painting practice is in large-format oil on canvas. She is the founder of Gimaa Radio, Ojibwe-language radio CHYF 88.9FM. She maintains an independent curating practice, and served as director of the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation before leaving to focus on her own practice and the art of paint-making. She is the founder of Beam Paints, where she combines an early education in Indigenous pigments from her parents Carl and Ann Beam, with a lifelong interest in art and colour. She has always loved the colours pink and green more than anyone should. She collects art, makes art, and is generally obsessed with all aspects therein. She recently showed her work at Campbell House Museum, in Toronto.

Visit Anong Beam’s website here
Read about Anong Beam’s Indigenous Based Colour Research on CBC News here

Public lecture in Toronto
Monday June 13, 7pm

Baillie Court, Art Gallery of Ontario
Lecture will be streamed and recorded.
Click here to register at the AGO (In-person attendees need to register online for a free ticket, while virtual attendees can simply navigate to the event page where we will post the live stream. No zoom registration is required.)


Images courtesy of the artist.
Anong is represented by Gallery Gevik, Toronto.


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