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“To me, art is therapy. Art is a form of meditation.”

Native Canadian Sioux artist Maxine Noel creates beautiful and powerful images, characterized by female figures, with soft colour, organic lines, and nature-inspired themes. Her artwork is recognized on a global level and has been reproduced in prints, giftware and clothing.
Maxine Noel gift mugs oscardo
Maxine was born on a Manitoba reserve and encouraged by her family to explore her creative talents. A residential school survivor, she has generously lent her voice and her work to Native and artistic communities across Canada. In 2019, she was named to the Order of Canada.

At Moccasins Canada, we are proud to showcase many items featuring Maxine’s artwork to beautify and inspire your daily life. Sip coffee from a porcelain mug, write in a special journal, or accessorize an outfit with her distinctive artistry.
Maxine Noel and Francine Scheuermann owner of The Brown Bear
Recently, we had the pleasure of speaking with Maxine Noel about her work and its compelling significance. She was a delight to talk to... a visionary with an open heart and generous spirit who believes that art can change the world.
Maxine Noel native artist shawl wool

When and how did you know you wanted to become a full-time artist?

It’s something I’ve done from the time I was very, very young. I’ve never done anything differently. Actually, I used to be in trouble at school because I was a daydreamer. When I’m speaking to teachers, I always tell them, “If you have a daydreamer in your class, please be patient. They will probably become an artist!”

It’s something I’ve done all my life, through school and through the encouragement of my family. Actually there’s a cute story. My uncle had this tiny little garden... Contractors were building homes on the Reserve, and there were pieces of wall board or something that were being thrown out. So I took all those — I was very, very young — and I did a whole bunch of sketches on them, and put them all around his garden. My uncle came, and he spent a very long time looking at these pieces. It was my very first art show! I think I was about nine. He was very encouraging, truly.

I didn’t officially become an artist until my early 30s, so it took awhile. My art and my ability to draw were something that was so normal to me, it would be like getting up and washing your face. At that young age, I never really thought I would do that as a career. I did many other things in between and then at the ripe old age of 35, I did actually, finally, become an artist.
native artist maxine noel quote about art encouragement

What advice would you give a young person just beginning to explore their artistic ability?

Just go with your heart. It’s not going to be an easy journey. It’s going to take many years. But if you truly believe, you keep going, and hopefully, eventually, it becomes a reality and one’s occupation. To me, art is therapy. Art is a form of meditation.

If you’re painting people... you really have to be true and truly understand what it is you’re painting because you’re dealing with people and their deepest emotions. And you’ve got to be careful about that. I’ve had reactions from people and I can see what my art has done for them. It’s highly emotional stuff.

What role do you think art plays in influencing our social and political landscape - particularly in terms of Indigenous culture, and reconciliation?

native artist maxine noel quote about art vehicle to wake people up
I use it personally, and have had success in using my art... It’s kind of like, “Everyone likes my art — great! Now that I have your attention, I want to wake you up about this, I want to wake you up about that.”

With the missing and murdered women, I created the image called, “Not Forgotten...” and the monies went to the Native Women’s Shelter in Toronto. And now I’m going to create an image to support the shelters. There was a lot of domestic violence during this time [of coronavirus] and they’re always in need of funding. So that is my current effort.

Also, I get very upset about the culling of the wolves, which I believe Pacific Wild out of BC is trying very hard to stop. So I have contacted them and it’s still a work in progress, I’m not saying too much about it; I still have to create the image and contact them again.

I’ve used my work to help make change. I’m not a person who needs tons and tons of money. My daughter always says, “She gives it all away,” and I say, “They’ll probably have to have a fundraiser for my funeral!”

What are some of your greatest influences, and how do you feel your work has evolved over the years?

Because I’ve drawn and painted all my life... for years and years I did things, and I didn’t know that they really meant a lot until later, after I left Manitoba. There was a lot of stuff I had to work out... for example, my years in the boarding [residential] school. A lot of stuff that hadn’t been worked out.
native artist maxine noel quote about delivering messages

The lines and colours in your paintings are so organic and fluid. I feel like these elements demonstrate the human connection to the natural world. Is this part of what inspires you to create?

I always talk about when the world was a primordial soup. Everything came from that. We are all a part of it. The world evolved from that. We are totally part of each other. We’re not any more important than anything else. But humans unfortunately think they are... they think they’re the smartest and the brightest. Why is it that nature just keeps going? Because animals know how to live with our planet — we don’t. Everything we do, we destroy.

In that respect, my work is a vehicle to deliver messages. It’s what I do.
native artist maxine noel mug

Your work has been reproduced on everything from prints to journals to umbrellas! Do you have a favourite — something that lends itself especially well to the spirit of your artwork?

I have a special project that I’m proud of. It’s the one called Not Forgotten. That image — the one that raises money for the women — it has received such a response from all over the world. Women everywhere have responded to that image. It has raised huge amounts of money, which were donated to women’s causes. I donated all my royalties, as have the two companies that produced the product, and it has come to a sizable donation. So that’s how I try to make things happen.
native artist maxine noel Not forgotten paiting
(photo credit: Whetung Ojibwa Centre)

You have always been such a strong voice and dedicated helpmeet within Native Canadian communities and beyond. What are you hoping to explore next, in both activism and in art?

My whole point is: if you’re capable of helping other people, be it whatever good cause, and you’re not doing it, then that’s just not right. Whichever way I can help out, I do. I was also involved with Artists Against Racism, an international organization, and they put images on giant billboards. So my images have been on giant billboards in Toronto and cities across Canada. Any way I can help with my art - basically, that’s how it is!

As a matter of fact, there are a lot of projects to get busy with that I’ve committed myself to. So I’m doing great right now. I am a very busy woman. But it’s how I like my life!
Maxine Noel and Francine Scheuermann owner of The Brown Bear
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Maxine signs her artwork with her Sioux name, Ioyan Mani, which was given to her by her grandmother, and means, "Walks Beyond."

Please visit the link below to view our collection of Maxine Noel accessories and giftware: https://www.moccasinscanada.com/search?q=maxine+noel
native american artist Maxine Noel journal
For more information on Maxine Noel, please visit: https://www.gg.ca/en/honours/canadian-honours/order-canada/maxine-noel-cm

2 comments

  • Maxine’s work is absolutely stunning! She is a beautiful human being in all ways……..thanks for all that you do Ioyan Mani!

    Ryan Phelps
  • So beautiful and emotional. I am so happy to see her with you Francine. Great women of the world. Love you.

    Diane Gignac

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