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Minnesota Native News

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Minnesota Native News is a weekly radio segment covering ideas and events relevant to Minnesota’s Native American communities. Made possible by the Minnesota Art's and Cultural Heritage fund


MN Native News: New Paintings, Old Stories

Artist Carl Gawboy is showing brand new work in Duluth. The art exhibit, "New Paintings, Old Stories," features Anishinaabe and Finnish culture, landscapes, and teachings. The exhibit is located at the Dr. Robert Powless Cultural Center and was curated by Wendy Savage.

This is Minnesota Native News. I'm Leah Lemm, in for Marie Rock. Coming up, artist Carl Gawboy is showing brand new work in Duluth. The art exhibit, “New Paintings, Old Stories," features Anishinaabe and Finnish culture, landscapes, and teachings. The exhibit is located at the Dr. Robert Powless Cultural Center and was curated by Wendy Savage. Here's the story. 
Carl Gawboy's works have appeared in over 75 exhibits. Some of his works live in permanent collections, including at the Minnesota Historical Society, the Department of Interior, and the Indian Arts and Crafts Board. Carl Gawboy is from the Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe and is of Finnish descent. 
Carl Gawboy: 
I'm Carl Gawboy. I'm a retired teacher. And I'm from Ely, originally. 
Outside the American Indian Community Housing Organization in Duluth is a billboard showcasing the latest Carl Gawboy art exhibit. To one side, features a photo of the artist. And the other side shows the watercolor painting, Vainomoinen and Nanaboojoo. These are the names of two beings from Finnish and Ojibwe tales. Though the painting depicts two men around a campfire, a tent among tall trees, an ax to the side. And you can almost hear the crackle of the fire. They are fishing buddies. Scenes like this is what Carl Gawboy is known for, showing how people lived their lives in their time. 
Carl Gawboy: 
That's what I kind of specialized in because I just looked around and saw other Indian artists weren't showing the mundane acts of everyday life in the past that I was really interested in. So that's the Art of the Everyday, but... 
There are over 30 pieces on display and many of them are new. 
Carl Gawboy: 
So about 15 of these are new works. And the other half of the gallery are some older things, some illustrations that I did for a publication, a couple of prints, clay prints of works I had done earlier. So it's a pretty good show, showing the older work and the brand new work. The new work that I did since 2021 is back to my Art of the Everyday, so. 
Carl Gawboy has had diverse subject matter throughout his career. And he brings us through a few of his works in the gallery. 
Carl Gawboy: 
I've got men planting trees in the 1930s with an organization called the Indian CCCs, The Civilian Conservation Corps that was started up in during the depression to give unemployed people work. There's a couple of scenes from homesteaders, separating milk and plowing new ground for a homesteading scene. You have an old man with his tobacco drawing in a shed. Two paintings of guides. One of guide's filleting fish for his clients. 
Wendy Savage curated the exhibit. 
Wendy Savage: 
I'm Wendy Savage. And I'm an enrolled member at the Fond du Lac Reservation. And I'm also an artist and a curator. 
Carl Gawboy has been a mentor to Wendy Savage. And she considers him a National Treasure. 
Wendy Savage: 
And I was lucky enough to meet Carl back in the '80s. And Carl invited me to come on with a group with him and George Morrison, and Bonnie Wallace, and Kent Smith to be part of the Ojibwe Art Expo. And so, I did that for 17 years with him. And then, I was fortunate enough to have him also as a teacher of mine. 
Carl Gawboy, being a National Treasure extends beyond his prolific artistry. His influence on and support of other artists has rippled throughout the art world. 
Wendy Savage: 
He's been a great influence. He's been like a mentor to me. And he has also always encouraged me in all of my artwork. Because back in the '70s and the '80, there wasn't a place for Native American art. And most galleries were shunning it, especially in this area because it wasn't considered fine art. So many galleries, even in my senior show of my BFA, they didn't want to show a fully-beaded cradle board, because it wasn't fine art. But when I would show my work to Carl, Carl was always encouraging… 
The exhibit, New Paintings, Old Stories, is on display every Friday through May 27th. More information is on the American Indian Community Housing Organization website,, A-I-C-H-O DOT O-R-G. For Minnesota Native News, I'm Leah Lemm.

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