George Morrison (1919-2000) is considered the grandfather of Native modernism. A member of the Minnesota Chippewa tribe and the post-war abstract expressionists, he blended his worlds to trailblaze a new art form.
Morrison grew up along the shores of Lake Superior in Chippewa City, Minnesota. As a boy, he enjoyed collecting driftwood and crafting toys and trinkets for tourists. Bedridden for 14 months following a surgery to treat tuberculosis, he discovered a love of art that shaped his future.
After studying at the Minnesota School of Art, Morrison went to New York's famed Art Students League. In the bustling city, he explored cubism and surrealism and joined a group of abstract expressionists who were reinventing art. Morrison earned wide recognition for his abstract works.
In the 1960s, Morrison grew homesick and returned to his childhood hobby of collecting driftwood. He used that driftwood to create award-winning sculptures and collages he called "paintings in wood." They were so popular, they often sold before they were even finished. In the 1970s, Morrison returned to Minnesota to teach. He built a home on the shore of Lake Superior and captured the lake's beauty that changed with the time of day, season, and weather.
Morrison earned many awards and was the first Native American to have his art displayed at the White House. In 2022, he earned a rare honor enjoyed by few artists – five of his paintings were featured on US postage stamps. Fittingly, the stamps were first issued in Grand Portage, Minnesota, where Morrison spent the last 30 years of his life.