Carl Beam, R.C.A.
First Name: Carl
Last Name: Beam
Full Name: Carl Beam
Name in syllabics: N/A
Alternative Names: Carl Edward Migwans, “Ahkideh” (from aakode' meaning “one who is brave” in the Ojibwe language)
Date of birth: May 24, 1943
Place of birth: M'Chigeeng First Nation, Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Canada
Date of death: July 30, 2005
Place of death: M'Chigeeng First Nation, Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Canada
Community / Heritage: Ojibwe
Disc Number: N/A
Art Media: Photographic mediums, mixed media, oil, acrylic, spontaneously scripted text on canvas, works on paper, plexiglas, stone, cement, wood, handmade ceramic pottery, found objects, etching, lithography and screen process.
Carl Beam was a Canadian Ojibwe artist who worked in a variety of media. His work sought to call attention to problems facing Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists, contemporary culture, and the tensions between Western and Indigenous cultures.
Beam was born in 1943 at M’Chigeeng First Nation, Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Canada. His mother, Barbara Migwans, was the Ojibwe daughter of Dominic Migwans, then the Chief of the Ojibwe of West Bay (later renamed M’Chigeeng First Nation). Beam’s father, Edward Cooper, was an American soldier from the 77th Regiment, Philadelphia, who died as a prisoner of war in Bad Soden, Germany during World War II. Beam was raised by his grandparents Dominic and Annie for most of his youth.
Beam’s character was recognized by his elders at a young age, and he was given the name “Ahkideh”, meaning “one who is brave” in the Ojibwe language. Between the age of ten to eighteen, he was sent to Garnier Residential School in Spanish, Ontario.
In the early 1960s, Beam met his first wife, with whom he had five children. He worked a variety of jobs, ranging from the construction of the Toronto subway to working as a millwright in Wawa, Ontario. In 1971, Beam began his formal education at the Kootenay School of Art in British Columbia. He transferred to the University of Victoria in 1973 and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. In 1976, he received his Masters of Fine Arts from the University of Alberta in Edmonton; after graduation he returned to Ontario.
In 1979, Beam married American-born artist Ann Elena Weatherby, a teacher at the Three Schools of Art in Toronto. They had a daughter together, Anong Migwans Beam. In 1980, Beam and his family moved to Arroyo Seco, New Mexico to live and work.
While in New Mexico, Beam was inspired by traditional ceramics and bowls created by the Anasazi and Mimbres people. Beam had been instructed in ceramic pottery while at the Kootenay School of Art, but had abandoned the medium earlier. However, these simple yet intricate designs full of turtles, snakes, birds and spirits inspired him and he began to create pottery work. Ravens were a common motif for Beam, as his family name derives from the word “migwans” which means “a little feather or bird.”
Beam and his wife exhibited their ceramic work together, including a show at the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.
Although Beam had achieved a level of success in the United States, in 1983 he returned to Canada, where he felt he had a more important contribution to make. The family moved to Peterborough, Ontario, and in 1984, Beam was asked to make the Thunder Bay Art Gallery’s first commissioned artwork. The resulting installation, “Exorcism,” became a turning point in his art career.
By adopting a mixed media approach to his work, Beam developed a new, unique style. Through his art, he was able to speak out against the unequal treatment of Indigenous people and to challenge the way we look at political and historical events. The Columbus Project, completed between 1989–1992, is the largest series of works to this effect. Beam examined how history remembered the accomplishments of Christopher Columbus while downplaying the devastating effects his arrival had on Indigenous people.
The early 2000s saw Beam begin a new series, “The Whale of Our Being”, which examined what Beam saw as the spiritual emptiness of modern society and its inability to live in harmony with the natural world. The series included photo emulsion works, sculptural constructions, works on paper and ceramics.
In 2001, the Beams, together with their daughter Anong, returned to working extensively with pottery, using painting techniques on glazeware. In 2004, the Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery in Waterloo, Ontario created a traveling exhibition of 50 ceramic pieces by Carl Beam, Ann Beam, and Anong Migwans Beam. This marked the first time all three exhibited together. It was also Carl’s last exhibition during his lifetime. Beam died on July 30, 2005 in his home at M'chigeeng Reserve on Manitoulin Island, Ontario from complications of diabetes.
Beam was the first artist of Indigenous ancestry to have his works purchased by the National Gallery of Canada. His work has been exhibited throughout North America, Italy, Denmark, Germany and China. It is currently found in major collections including the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Vancouver Art Gallery and the Albright-Knox Gallery in Buffalo, New York. In 2000, Beam was inducted into the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts and received a Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts in 2005.
- 1989: In the Shadow of the Sun, Dortmund, Germany
- 1989: In the Shadow of the Sun, Canadian Museum of Civilization, Hull, Quebec, Canada
- 1989: Indian Art'89, Woodland Cultural Centre, Brantford, Ontario, Canada
- 1989: Beyond History, Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
- 1992: The Columbus Boat, The Power Plant, Toronto, Canada
- 1992: The Columbus Boat, The Weil Gallery, Corpus Christie State University, Texas
- 1992: The Columbus Suite, Two Rivers Gallery, Minneapolis, Minnesota
- 1992: The Columbus Suite, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada
- 1992: Colours of Humanity, The Sky Dome, Toronto, Canada
- 1992: Look Ma, No Mortgage, Arnold Gottlieb Gallery, Toronto, Canada
- 1992: Ufundi Gallery, Ottawa, Canada
- 1992: Land, Spirit and Power - First Nations, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Canada
- 1992: Indigena, Canadian Museum of Civilization, Hull, Quebec, Canada
- 1992: La Parete Gallery, Toronto, Canada
- 1993: Indian Territories, Renee Fotouhi Fine Art East, Long Island, NY
- 1993: Adobe Project: Living in Mother Earth, London Regional Art Gallery and Historical Museum, London, Ontario, Canada
- 1993: Land, Spirit and Power, MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
- 1993: The Columbus Suite, The Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba, Brandon, Manitoba, Canada
- 1993: Arnold Gottlieb Gallery, Toronto, Canada
- 1993: The Columbus Suite, Gettysburg College Art Gallery, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
- 1993: Fragile Power: Explorations of Men, Newton Art Centre, Newtonville, Massachusetts
- 1993: Burying the Ruler, International Symposium - Native American Art Association Panel Member, Santa Fe, New Mexico
- 1993: Earth, Spirit and Power - Within the Shadow of the Sun, The York Quay Gallery, Toronto, Canada
- 1993: Indigena, Winnipeg Art Gallery, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
- 1994: Land Spirit and Power, Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, Texas
- 1994: Reading the Language of Culture, Hamilton Art Gallery, Hamilton, Canada
- 1994: Land, Spirit and Power, Nickel Arts Museum, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
- 1994: McMichael Canadian Collection, Kleinberg, Ontario, Canada
- 1995: Indian Time, Brandts Klaederfabrik, Odense, Denmark
- 1995: Leon V-Idea, Genoa, Italy
- 1995: Via Farini, Milan, Italy
- 1995: Neon Arts Contemporanea, Bologna, Italy
- 1995: Four Italian Exhibitions of Columbus Boat, De Leon White Gallery, Toronto, Canada
- 1995: Circolo Arcimboldo, La Spezia, Italy
- 1996: Oh! Canada. Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada
- 1997: Margins: Food/Shelter, De Leon White Gallery, Toronto, Canada
- 1997: Environmental Canada Project, McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa, Canada
- 1997: Transitions, Canadian Cultural Centre, Paris, France
- 1997: Notification, The Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen's University, Kingston, Canada
- 1990: New Works, De Leon White Gallery, Toronto, Canada
- 1999: Epistemological Reconstruction Work, De Leon White Gallery, Toronto, Canada
- 2000: Reconstructing Reason: the Koan of Carl Beam, Carleton University Art Gallery, Ottawa, Canada
- 2000: Group Show: Works from Novak Graphics, Shanghai, China
- 2001: The Whale of Our Being, De Leon White Gallery, Toronto, Canada
- 2002: Shamans and Ravens: Carl Beam, Deleon White Gallery, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
- 2002: Selected Works, Steel City Gallery, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
- 2002: The Whale of Our Being, Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa, Canada
- 2003: Feigned Memories, The University of Lethbridge Art Gallery, Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada
- 2003: Gatherings, National Museum Of History, Taiwan
- 2003: It's all Connected: Carl & Ann Beam, Gardiner Ceramic Museum, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
- 2004: It's all Relative: Carl, Ann & Anong Beam, Canadian Clay & Glass Gallery, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
- 2005: Art Gallery of Peterborough, Peterborough, Ontario, Canada
- 2005: Art Gallery of Minden, Minden, Ontario, Canada
- 2005: Thunder Bay Art Gallery, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada
- 2005: The Art Gallery of Algoma, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada
- 2006: Carl Beam: Breaking the Rules, Galerie d’art Vincent, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
- 2011: Carl Beam, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (Oct. 2010 - Jan. 2011)
- 2011: Exhibition of Works by Carl Beam, La Parete Gallery, Toronto (April - May, 2011)
- The National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario
- The Museum of Civilization, Ottawa, Ontario
- The Canada Art Bank - Canada Council
- The Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Ontario
- The Vancouver Art Gallery, British Columbia
- The Albright Knox Gallery, Buffalo, NY
- The McMichael Collection of Canadian Art, Kleinberg, Ontario
- The Calgary Nickel Arts Museum, Alberta
- 2000: The Royal Canadian Academy of Arts
- 2005: The Governor General's Awards in Visual and Media Arts
Recent Auction Results
Estimate: 125 — 150
Sold: Sep 2021 — Sold For: $720
Estimate: 150 — 175
Sold: Sep 2021 — Sold For: $450
Estimate: 150 — 200
Sold: Aug 2021 — Sold For: $540
Estimate: 150 — 200
Sold: Aug 2021 — Sold For: $480
Estimate: 150 — 200
Sold: Aug 2021 — Sold For: $510
Estimate: 150 — 200
Sold: Aug 2021 — Sold For: $570