Cultural Background: Ojibway, Temagami Reserve, Bear Island Ontario
Born in Temagami, Ontario, Chee Chee largely taught himself to draw and paint. His father died when he was two months old and he lost track of his mother. One reason behind his drive for success as a painter was his ambition to be reunited with her.
Chee Chee's first exhibition was held in 1973 at the University of Ottawa. Soon after he gained fame as he developed his unique style of clear graceful lines with minimal colour of birds and animals giving sense to emotion and movement. Though his art featured a great deal of iconography often used by Canadian First Nations artists, Chee Chee had denied his art had symbolic meaning. He instead referred to the animals featured in his art as "creatures of the present". He also specifically referred to himself to an Ojibway artist, as opposed to allowing himself to be categorized under the broader net of simply an "Indian" artist.
After finally finding his mother and achieving success as an artist, he committed suicide in an Ottawa jail. Benjamin Chee Chee was buried in Notre Dame Cemetery in Ottawa, Ontario. His work has been exhibited posthumously throughout Canada.
He was a prominent member of the second generation of Woodland Indian painters, a native art movement that began in the early nineteen-sixties and has since become one of the important art schools in Canada. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Chee Chee pursued an economical graphic style, a reduction of line and image more in keeping with mainstream international modern art.
At the age of thirty-two and at the height of a new found success as an artist and printmaker Chee Chee died tragically by committing suicide.
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