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The Canadian Museum of Civilization's Morning Star goes high-tech for 20th anniversary
Janvier’s spectacular abstract painting on the domed ceiling of the Grand Hall. Photo ©CMC.

GATINEAU.- The Canadian Museum of Civilization is celebrating the 20th anniversary of Dene Suline artist Alex Janvier’s painting Morning Star, with a new interpretive experience that highlights the cultural and artistic significance of this Aboriginal masterpiece, thanks to the renewed support of Ralph and Roz Halbert. The new technology, along with a new viewing area and upcoming restoration work, are three great reasons to discover — or rediscover — Janvier’s spectacular abstract painting on the domed ceiling of the Grand Hall.

“Our goal with the Morning Star anniversary project is to increase the visibility of one of the most important works of art in our National Collection, to make it more accessible, and to ensure that it will be enjoyed and appreciated by more Canadians,” says Mark O’Neill, President and CEO of the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation. “Because of its cultural and artistic significance ― and also because it’s simply a great work of art ― the 20th anniversary of Alex Janvier’s Morning Star deserves to be underlined.”

To that end, the Museum has launched a new interpretive platform titled Morning Star – Gambeh Then’ (the painting’s title in the artist’s Dene language) for smartphones, tablets, laptop and desktop computers that allows actual and virtual visitors to explore the fine details up close. The platform provides a 360-degree view and zoom feature so visitors can immerse themselves in the imposing 19 metre wide circular artwork. It also invites people to discover a wealth of multimedia resources that add context and background information about Morning Star, its history, meaning, and the artist who created it.

A new lounge area provides a more comfortable space from which to contemplate and enjoy the artwork, while a separate restoration project over the coming months will ensure its preservation well into the future.

“Morning Star remains one of my favourite commissions and a highlight of my career,” says Janvier, a pioneer of contemporary Canadian Aboriginal art. “I hope the new interpretive approach and restoration will bring renewed interest not only to this particular work, but to the ideas and ideals it represents.”

The painting illustrates the history of this land from the artist’s Dene Suline perspective. A white circle in the centre represents the morning star, a guiding light for hunters and trappers and the source of all creation. The fine geometric lines of colour radiating out from the star — reminiscent of traditional Dene quillwork — represent diverse Aboriginal cultures. These are juxtaposed with more organic, curvilinear shapes that represent the arrival of European ideas and beliefs. Morning Star is both a commentary on five centuries of conflict and coexistence, and an expression of hope for mutual respect and conciliation between Aboriginal and European traditions.

The work of art, which Janvier completed in just over three months with the help of his son Dean, was a gift to the people of Canada from Toronto philanthropists Ralph and Roz Halbert. Two decades later, they continue to contribute to Morning Star and to the Museum by generously funding the new interpretive platform and preservation work. “We are very proud to have supported the creation of such a meaningful and iconic work as Morning Star and we are delighted to be a part of its renewal 20 years later. We want as many people as possible to experience, learn about and appreciate this Canadian masterpiece, now and well into the future,” stated Ralph Halbert.

Conservators will be restoring the painting’s surface coating in the coming months and although sight lines will be somewhat reduced during this time, Morning Star will remain on view. The Museum will provide progress reports on the work via social media and other channels.

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