Hello and welcome to my page, I am a Visual Artist, Mixed/Multi Media, Metal/Wood Artist
James Groening, or Blue Sky, is a Burnaby-based Cree artist from Kahkewistahaw Band, Turtle Island. Adopted by his white grandparents during the Sixties Scoop, Groening was raised in a farm community in Plains Cree Territory (otherwise known as Manitoba). Although disconnected from his Kahkewistahaw roots, he retained part of his Indian name, Blue Sky, given by mushom, or grandfather, as a child. After meeting his maternal mother and learning of his heritage, he attributes discovering Coast Salish art forms, specifically, drawing a Haida-style hummingbird that inspired him to pursue a journey of reclaiming his Indigeneity.
After learning of the Woodland Art style, Groening did a brief apprenticeship with Ojibway artist Mark Anthony Jacobson to learn how to paint. He continues an ongoing mentorship by one of Norval Morrisseau’s friends and Anishinaabe artist Saul Williams, where he explores painting and drum making in his whimsical, vibrant designs. Led by artistic intuition and native legends, Groening works with the physical nuances and spirit of each canvas and elk skin to begin his creation process. His artwork documents his journey of healing and growth, as he attempts to revitalize his cultural identity through art making and teaching among others.
As an emerging artist, James Groening has graciously received a grant from The First Peoples Cultural Council BC and completed a residency at Artscape’s FACES Collective in Toronto. He has exhibited at the Arts Council of New Westminster, Skwachàys Lodge Aboriginal Hotel + Gallery, and the Massey Arts Society. In addition, he has led various Turtle Legend Workshops with the City of New Westminster and United Way BC. Currently, James is actively creating and learning on Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, Qayqayt, Tsleil-Waututh, Stó:lō, and šxʷməθkʷəy̓əmaɁɬ təməxʷ (Musqueam) territories.
Burnaby, BC, Turtle Island
Samples of my work
My art is a journey of healing and growth where I attempt to regain a sense of cultural understanding that was lost. I was born in the 60s and raised in a farm community, far removed from any Native art, but interested in learning about my heritage. At age 24, I met my maternal mother and told her I knew my Indian name, Blue Sky. She was surprised but said that Blue Sky was only the first part of my name and the second was lost in time. This is fitting for my life. Lost in a time when things were hard for natives, and now, I am searching for my shadow, as the story goes.
I began learning about Native art and found that I liked the west coast style, and I bought a few prints. I loved the hummingbird I bought and started drawing it and other things I have seen. After purchasing an original painting set by Mark Anthony Jacobson, I found that the Woodland School of Art was a whole new area of art closer to my ancestors.
Today, I make Woodland-style native art where I paint legends and whimsical wildlife on things I make like drums and an eagle head staff. It is very important to convey what I learn about my culture through legends and teachings because generations have lost so much information and a sense of cultural identity. It is also easier to learn a complex truth through a cheerful medium like painting. For example, my work, Turtle Legend, teaches children where they live on Turtle Island in a way they can comprehend.
I seem to find a peaceful balance when doing art, which brings some relief in these hectic times. I hope to learn more and contribute to the art world by creating and teaching those who want to learn. I think this is the way forward for our cultural heritage to heal and grow.