%C2%A9 Estate of George Morrison %2F Briand Morrison

Red Totem I, 1977


Red Totem I is the first in a series of tall columns made by George Morrison, ranging from monumental to a size suitable for a tabletop. Morrison took the word “totem” to mean “family mark” in the Ojibwe language (anglicized from doodem), connected to family clans. The clans, based mainly on animals, are instrumental in traditional occupations, intertribal relations, and marriages—each totem represents a core branch of knowledge and responsibility essential to society. In making these tall manifestations of the importance of clans, Morrison honored a tradition among many Native nations while transforming it through his carefully honed abstract visual language. He constructed Red Totem I using pieces of stained redwood glued to a plywood core. According to Morrison, the redwood pieces were his imitation of carving “a kind of Constructivism like Mondrian and Moholy-Nagy, with straight edges and flat shapes.” The wood pieces were stained red to reference sacred earth paint.

Red Totem I
Artist Life
(Grand Portage Anishinaabe), 1919 - 2000
H.144-1/4 x W.15-1/4 x D.15-1/4 in.
Accession Number
Curator Approved

This record is from historic documentation and may not have been reviewed by a curator, so may be inaccurate or incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email collectionsdata@artsmia.org.

Does something look wrong with this image? Let us know

© Estate of George Morrison / Briand Morrison

Because of © restrictions, we can only show you a small image of this artwork. (You'll have to come see it in person.)