By Michelle McChristie
His last show in Thunder Bay was at the Red Oak Inn with his friend Norval Morrisseau. That was in 1983. Shortly afterwards, William Hedican put down his paintbrushes and redirected his energy to Aboriginal advocacy. In the mid-1990s, he packed up his files and left town, but a sense of home drew him back. Today, Hedican finds new inspiration for art and has immersed himself in the kind of experimentation that many artists leave behind in their youth.
“In the late 60s, my work was considered experimental, at times radical, and naïve in the sense of an immature style,” Hedican says. He feels that the popularity of Woodland style has become so traditional that it has led to mimicry rather than continued experimentation and creativity. Of himself and his peers, he says, “We saw ourselves as innovators, but, mostly, just a group of friends having fun. Our art was traditional in the sense that we were representing the world based on our own perceptions, and as seen by those who came before us. It was not so much the style but the content: a love of the bush, the animals, and the spiritual link unique to our culture.”
Hedican returned to Thunder Bay in 2012 and found that many of his dreams with respect to the development of the arts had become a reality. “A new acceptance for art had slipped into the Thunder Bay consciousness,” he says, and so he chose to resume life as visual artist.
With a poignant message expressed through his art and his words, Hedican’s ultimate goal is to encourage young artists to keep experimenting. “I feel it is time to speak out, to encourage the young not just to build upon what exists, but to create anew. Remember that much of what you know today was created by us when we were young. We need new ways of thinking if our art is to expand and flourish, indeed if our culture and this society is to progress.”
Just 4 Fun, a show featuring some of Hedican’s recent work, will take place at the Habana Gallery, 118 Cumberland Street North on April 26–27, 11 am–5 pm.